On the road with the Newfoundland diaspora

Photojournalist Greg Locke on the road in the Peace Country of northern Alberta. Photo by Tamas Virag © 2007

In a journalist’s career there are many stories to tell. Sometimes you are a local journalist telling a local story to a local audience. Other times you are a foreigner in a foreign land trying to tell a foreign story to the folks back home. In either case it’s usually someone else’s story you are telling, not your own.

I’ve never been much interested in “local” stories or covering my own home town. It’s just too close to home, especially in a small city like St. John’s, Newfoundland, where you are pretty well guaranteed to know or have some connection to your subjects and sources. Sometimes I think small-town journalists have it the hardest, as their ‘objective’ reporting all too often comes back at them as personal attacks in the local hockey rink or morning coffee stops.

But there often comes a time in a journalists’ career where they realise that they have a good story in their lives, family or personal community  that has a universal theme, one that a broader audience might find interesting. For me it is the story of the Newfoundland history of migrant workers, hundreds of thousand of Newfoundlanders that migrated and traveled the world from their island in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean for work, trade and, like migrant workers from around the world, a better life and to support their families back home.

This has been happening for a hundred years in Newfoundland and my family has been as much a part of it as just about every family in Newfoundland today. In 2006 I begin documenting the stories of the people and families that have spread across the world, either as a full-fledged migration or as global commuters travelling to the global economy. My story Mexicans with Sweaters is a segment of that story, which looks at the generations of Newfoundlanders who have moved or commute to northern Alberta to work, not only in the massive tar sands industrial complex, but at jobs from waitress to doctor in towns like Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.

They are all stories from the road with the Newfoundland diaspora.

— Greg Locke, St. John’s, Newfoundland

(Locke’s Magazine feature is available with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.)