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Finding Our Place in
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Finding Our Place in Canada

An interview with Dr. Vic Young, B.Comm. (Hons.)’66; LLD ’96, in the Fall of 2003.

“No to separation. No to the status quo.” That expression has come to summarize “Our Place in Canada” the final report of the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening our Place in Canada, released July 2, 2003. Memorial’s alumni magazine Luminus caught up with commission chair, Dr. Victor Young.

LUMINUS: What do you see as the role of Memorial University and Memorial alumni in renewing and strengthening this province's position within confederation.

YOUNG: All three commissioners, all honorary graduates of Memorial, agreed that there should be no more important institution in this province than Memorial University.

We made use of that expertise in our research for the Commission. One example, and there are many, was Dr. George Rose [Fisheries Conservation Chair] who did a major research paper on the fishery, listing the importance of science to the fishery, the way the fishery has been managed and what we have to do to manage our way back to some kind of sustainable fishery in the future.

We put in the final report our support for George's recommendations for more fishery science at the university. We put in there our support for the rural business institute that has been talked about at Memorial. We also focused in on the university, saying the university has to continually play a key role in what is going to happen particularly on the debate on rural Newfoundland, on the economy, on the budget, on intergovernmental affairs strategy…Some of it is coming from the university now but much more of it really should.

It's just impossible to overstate the value of the people coming out of Memorial. The key is to keep them here. In my own personal case I have four adult children, all of whom went to Memorial, all of whom have degrees from Memorial and none of whom, at the moment, are living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

LUMINUS: Rural outmigration is a big issue for the province. Is what is happening off the Avalon Peninsula simply reflecting trends elsewhere in North America?

YOUNG: It is and it isn’t. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador it came so quickly. Ten years ago we lost almost over-night the whole raison d'etre for rural life--which was the fish.

LUMINUS: Where does the university fit in that?

YOUNG: Over the next decade the university can play an increasingly important role in examining the future of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

LUMINUS: Among the many out-migrants are graduates of Memorial. What can alumni living outside the province do to help renew and strengthen this province's relationship up-along?

YOUNG: It's unrealistic to think that they can do a lot. The big message we got [from the expatriates in Toronto and elsewhere] was that they visit on a regular basis but they have no intention of coming back unless they see a way to make a difference. That gets back to the whole issue of a small province with--except for oil--a flat economy. How do you create those opportunities? As we move forward it has to be with people who get up in the morning and have nothing to do that day but address those challenges.

LUMINUS: What would you say to a new graduate who says, "How can I help to renew and strengthen the province's relationship with Canada when I can't even find a career-related job?"

YOUNG: My encouragement to all those people is to “put your energy into the present and into the future and don’t limit yourself.” This is going to be a challenge for us all. But the one thing you can’t do is have people - well-educated Memorial graduates - limiting themselves.

LUMINUS: What are your thoughts on changing our image in Canada?

YOUNG: The most productive thing we can do, in my own view, to change the perception of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians over time, is to succeed as a society… bring back the ground fish, retain the shell fish, sustain rural areas of the province, sort out our financial position and get a better break on our oil revenues. Then that will change our image.


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