Reverend Lester Burry's Speeches

Rev. Lester Burry in the National Convention:

Mr. Burry: I would like to take a few minutes to say how I feel about the return to Responsible Government and my own early reactions to it. I feel that the very thought of it, to me, puts fear into my bones and to think of this country going back to Responsible Government, I am possessed with a sense of dread and fear to think of it. These are no idle words of mine. I have a reason to fear the consequences of Responsible Government. Whether rightly or wrongly I have associated the political set-up with the economic conditions we have had. Now I know that they may not be wholly responsible for the other, but there has been very close connection between the two. . . It is generally agreed among our people that for the majority of our people life has been a terrific struggle all down through the years and personally, Sir, I was caught up in that struggle myself, in my youth. My father was one of the primary producers of this country and he suffered tremendously as one of them. . . I do recall the early struggles, and the struggles to get an education. . . Mr. Harrington told us here that as a civil servant in the Department of Public Health and Welfare, that day after day he sat before his desk reading letters from different parts of the country telling of the tragic stories of privation and struggles.


Mr. Burry: I am sure that Mr. Harrington will agree that it is one thing to sit before a desk in a nice comfortable room, having two square meals and to read these letters, it is another to be in the field, making contacts, going into the homes of these people and seeing their bare cupboards and hearing the cries of children, cries of hunger, cries that never leave you once you have heard them. They are different from any other cries of children. And having gone through that experience, I make the statement that I fear the return of Responsible Government to the people, with the fear it might bring back these conditions again. . . People will say to me "It does not have to happen again. . ." It may happen again and I do not want to take a chance on it. We have no guarantees that it will not happen again. . . I do not want to make the blunder of having Responsible Government returned by my giving any support to it. It is happening already and 13,000 people are on the dole in this country and in Labrador. . . And, Sir, if it has to come, if I have to face it again in my work, I do not want to have to say to myself that I should not have given support to the kind of government under which this kind of thing exists. Let us try something else.

Excerpts reproduced from the "Proceedings of the Newfoundland National Convention 1946-1948, 22 January 1948." Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections Division (J.R. Smallwood Collection 075), Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University, St. John's, NL.