CHAPTER VIII.--ALTERNATIVE COURSES OF ACTION.
The Question of the Disposal of Labrador. (continued)
525.--(c) There is a
number who think that the problem would be best solved by the United Kingdom taking
over the territory for a consideration and administering it either alone or in
conjunction with Newfoundland. The suggestion was based on the grounds that the
United Kingdom, with her wide experience of governing and administering new
territories, would be better equipped to administer the territory than any other
country; and that Labrador is so situated geographically that in the world of the
future it may well come to occupy an important commercial and strategic position
in the British Empire. This suggestion has never, so far as we are aware, been
broached by either of the two Governments concerned, but it is noteworthy as
showing the views entertained by a certain number of thinking people in the
suggestion is that the territory might be sold or leased to a trading company
operating under charter or other authority, the company administering the territory
and paying to Newfoundland either a lump sum or annual rental for trading rights.
Suggestions to this end have been put before us from more than one quarter. It was
claimed that, apart from the money payment, the trading operations of the company
would indirectly benefit the Island.
527.--(e) It has also
been suggested that, in addition to or apart from any industrial and commercial
development, the territory should be opened up by the construction of new roads
and the establishment of inns, hotels and hostels; and that by this means the
territory might be made an attractive country for tourists, sportsmen and others.
Kindred proposals have been put forward from time to time; indeed, as far back as
1892, it was proposed that a railway should be built through Labrador which would
greatly shorten the distance between England and Canada and promote union between
Canada and Newfoundland. Until the territory has ben explored and surveyed,
proposals of this kind must lie outside the immediate range of practical
528. As will be seen from this
analysis of the suggestions put before us, the problem of the future of Labrador is
one which has not only engaged the attention of successive Governments of the
Island but has been a constant topic of speculation and discussion by
Newfoundlanders throughout the country. It has also been the subject of
consideration by individuals and companies outside the Island. Possibly the
most helpful suggestion is that of a trading company, but, failing the
establishment of such a company, we think that Newfoundland should retain the
territory and administer it. The general opinion is that the territory is capable
of great possibilities. Hitherto these possibilities have only been guessed at.
As soon as funds permit, an aerial survey should be undertaken to ascertain with
some degree of particularly the nature of the territory and its approximate value.
What we have said as to the encouragement of the industry of fur-bearing
animals* in Newfoundland applies equally to Labrador.
||Cape White Handkerchief, Labrador, n.d.
Photographer unknown. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207),
Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
529. In any scheme that may be
adopted for the disposal of the territory, it is probable that Newfoundland will
require that the fishing rights of the Newfoundland fishermen on the coast of
Labrador be safeguarded.
Political Union with Canada.
530. It will be seen from what
has been said above that we do not regard default by Newfoundland on her loan
obligations as providing a solution of her present problems; and we are satisfied
that any of the proposals or suggestions last mentioned, if accepted, would offer
only a temporary alleviation of existing difficulties. There are no other measures
which Newfoundland can herself take to avoid default on the 1st January, and we
turn now to alternative possibilities the fulfilment of which would be dependent
on external assistance. The first of these is the possibility of negotiating some
form of political union with Canada.
531. We do not propose here to
enter into a detailed discussion of what at first sight would appear to be an
attractive solution of Newfoundland's difficulties. It will have been seen from
the historical summary in Chapter III that the question of political union between
the two countries is one which has frequently been debated in the past and which
arises with some acuteness about once in a generation. In 1867, when the Canadian
Confederation was first formed, there was a general expectation that Newfoundland
would link her fortunes with those of the other Colonies of British North America.
This expectation, however, was rudely dispelled in 1869 when the issue was put to
the people and decisively rejected. The question was not seriously discussed again
until 1895 when, following the acute financial crisis in which Newfoundland was
then involved, negotiations were opened with the Canadian Government. These
negotiations came within measurable distance of succeeding but, as will be seen
from the account given in Chapter III, a deadlock finally arose over the financial
terms, the Canadian Delegation refusing to agree to the assumption by Canada of the
whole of the Island's public indebtedness, and their maximum offer falling short by
some $5,000,000 of what the representatives of Newfoundland considered
essential. Appeal was made to the United Kingdom in the hope that the
Imperial Government would consent to take this burden upon their shoulders and
thus enable a statesmanlike solution to be reached; but the matter was regarded in
England as one for settlement between Canada and Newfoundland and the Imperial
Government felt unable to undertake such a commitment. The negotiations were
532. Passing by unofficial
discussions from time to time, we come to an important debate in the Canadian
Senate, in 1928, which revealed a preponderance of opinion sympathetic to the idea
of union; and in which the similarity of interests in Newfoundland and the Maritime
Provinces of Canada was emphasised and a vision entertained of a great consolidated
Dominion embracing all British countries on the Western side of the
533. Now, in 1933, the subject
comes again to the forefront, and it was urged by some of the witnesses who came
before us that the union of the two Dominions would provide a solution of
Newfoundland's difficulties and would at the same time lead to the consolidation of
an enlarged Canadian Dominion. But it is clear for a number of reasons, which will
be detailed later, that, unless the Canadian Government were prepared to offer
strikingly generous terms, no such solution would be acceptable to Newfoundland
* Chapter VII, paragraphs 484-491.
Chapter III, paragraph 86.
Image description updated May, 2004.