Newfoundland and Labrador, province, Canada: Land and People

Land and People

Newfoundland island lies at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is bounded on the north, east, and south by the Atlantic Ocean and separated on the northwest from Labrador by the Strait of Belle Isle. Off Newfoundland's south shore lies the French overseas department of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. Labrador, part of the Labrador-Ungava peninsula, forms the northeastern tip of the Canadian mainland. It is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean down to the Strait of Belle Isle and on the south and west by Quebec. Cape Chidley, Labrador's northernmost point, is on the Hudson Strait.

Newfoundland has a rocky, deeply indented coast. Most of the island is a plateau, with many lakes and marshes; forests cover less than half the area. The inland wilderness abounds with fur-bearing animals, waterfowl, and fish; caribou graze on the tundra of the north. The Grand Banks, south of the island, was once one of the best cod-fishing areas in the world, but overfishing has severely depleted stocks, and the Atlantic cod fisheries were closed in 2003. The province has a generally cool and moist climate. In Labrador, the cold Labrador current brings below-freezing temperatures eight months of the year.

Most of Newfoundland's inhabitants are of English or Irish descent, but in sparsely populated Labrador the inhabitants are largely Inuit and Montagnais-Naskapi. The Beothuk, an indigenous people on the island of Newfoundland, died out in the 19th cent. They generally avoided contact with Europeans, and loss of access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds and exposure to European diseases may have hastened their demise. The population is centered on the island's southeastern Avalon Peninsula, the province's most important commercial and administrative region. The capital and largest city is St. John's. Corner Brook is the third largest city (following the St. John's suburb of Mount Pearl) and the second urban center in importance.

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