The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume I


Page 112
sponsored by
Charles A. Martijn,
Québec City, QC

Page 113
sponsored by
Karen Follett,
St. John's, NL

Page 114
sponsored by
Tanya Saunders,
Conception Bay South,

p. 112

to the deduction of the portion of the length of that "coast" which. was detached from the Government of Newfoundland and re-annexed to the Government of Lower Canada by the Act of 1825 cited above. Whatever meaning the expression "coast" of Labrador had in those instruments, that meaning, Canada submits, has persisted down to the present time and is still its meaning. None of the later Statutes, Orders-in-Council or Proclamations either defines the area over which the Governor or the Government of Newfoundland was intended to exercise jurisdiction otherwise than by the word "coast" or gives any meaning to that expression different from that which it had in the instruments of 1763—to which, indeed, they refer. That meaning—the meaning which the word naturally bears in those instruments with reference to the context, the declared object, and all the surrounding facts—has, it is submitted, been correctly stated in Canada's Case.

   8. The Colony, on the other hand, seeks to attribute to the word "coast" as so used, a meaning that is inconsistent not only with the proper construction of that term, but likewise with the provisions of the Royal Proclamation which reserved "under the immediate sovereignty, protection and dominion" of the King, for the use of the Indians, "all the lands and territories not included within the limits of our said three new governments or within the limits of the territories granted to the Hudson's Bay Company." If the contention of the Colony with respect to the interpretation of the word "Coast" were right, then it would follow that the only land reserved for the Indians was the land coloured yellow on the map appended to the Case of the Colony, and that the Labrador Indians, although subjects and wards of the King, living under His protection within the areas coloured green and pink on that map, were deliberately excluded from the benefit and assurance of that reservation. This interpretation, repugnant in itself to the then established policy of His Majesty in regard to securing to the Indian tribes living under His protection the quiet possession of their hunting lands and to the obvious spirit of the Royal Pro-

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clamation, is moreover, at variance with the plain intent and meaning of that instrument. Canada submits that the whole of the lands of the Labrador peninsula, not comprised within the limits of the Hudson's Bay Company's territory or within those established for the province of Quebec, was, by the terms of the Royal Proclamation, reserved and set apart, under His Majesty's immediate protection, for the use of the Indian tribes of that Peninsula for their hunting grounds, subject only to the carrying on upon the seacoast under the supervision of the Governor of Newfoundland of "the open and free fishery" declared by the Proclamation to have been extended to that coast. All the surrounding facts shows this to have been the true intent and effect of that instrument, and contemporaneous interpretation, if material, confirms that conclusion. Under and by virtue of the subsequent Statutes, Orders-in-Council and Proclamations, the entirety of the lands so reserved for the use of the Labrador Indians was incorporated in the territories which to-day form the Dominion of Canada and is subject as such (save only as regards the narrow margin of land on the seacoast over which the rights of the Government of Newfoundland extend) to the exclusive governmental and legislative authority of the Dominion of Canada and of the Province of Quebec in which it lies.

   REASON 2: Because the evidence adduced in respect of the crucial years 1854 to 1880 (from the proceedings of the Select Committee of the House of Commons of Great Britain inquiring into the affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company, from the maps issued by the Canadian Government and others, and from the correspondence between the Canadian Government and the British Embassy at Washington) is inconsistent with any other conclusion.

   9. The evidence invoked by this "Reason" is assumed to be that which is set out in paragraph 36 of the Colony's Case. It belongs entirely to the category of evidence of reputation, which, of course, is merely traditional hearsay. Evidence of this description, when admitted at all, is admitted only on the ground of the assumed absence of better

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evidence and, as it were, from necessity; in its very nature, it is intrinsically weak. In the present case, the enactments which govern the definition of the Colony's rights within the Labrador peninsula and all the circumstances which led to and surrounded them being fully known, evidence of reputation is irrelevant and ought to be rejected. Subject to that, Canada submits that the evidence cited affords no substantial ground on which the "Reason" stated above can rest.

   10. First, the designation of the years 1854 to 1880 as crucial years, is, Canada submits, unjustified. The instruments which define the only rights ever conferred upon the Government of Newfoundland were issued in 1763. The Colony, in its Case, in effect admits, as already noted, that none of the subsequent acts added anything to the extent of "coast" over which such rights were created by the instruments of 1763. Neither in the years 1854 to 1880, nor at any time, was any extension given to the territory described in the instruments as 1763. Such modification as resulted in 1855 from the recognition of the principles of responsible government as applicable in Newfoundland effected no change of the extent of territory subject to the authority of that Government. Nor does anything appear in any evidence that has been adduced supporting the affirmation of the Colony's Case, that these years—1854 to 1880—are "of peculiar importance because in them the question of the interior boundaries of the Pensinsula, first assumed practical importance." The history of Newfoundland's administration on the coast within those years negatives the idea that it attached any importance to the coast, its administration, or its boundaries.

   11. Secondly, with regard to the evidence invoked by this "Reason," it consists, for the most part, of opinions or impressions expressed by some individuals or represented by certain mapmakers respecting territorial divisions or the location of boundaries in the Labrador peninsula, and it is alleged that these opinions or impressions show that it was generally believed and understood that the boundaries in the Labrador peninsula were

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determined on a "watershed" or a "height-of-land" basis. That evidence, the Colony finally contends, is strongly confirmed by (1) certain maps compiled by employees of the Canadian Government, and (2) by certain correspondence in 1874 between the Canadian Government and the British Embassy at Washington, in which confirmation was given to an opinion which Lord Dufferin, then Governor General of Canada, had verbally expressed in conversation with the British Ambassador, with regard to the question whether Labrador formed part of Canada.

   The opinions or impressions formed by some individuals respecting the location of boundaries in the Labrador peninsula, particularly when it does not appear that any of these persons had given any special consideration to the subject or was qualified to do so, can have no sort of bearing upon the determination of the present issue, even if they were not countervailed, as they undoubtedly are, by other opinions of greater authority, and altogether overborne by evidence of a higher nature.

   So far as the Canadian maps or correspondence referred to indicate any view different from that set forth by Canada in its Case, it is shown by evidence contained in the joint appendix that such view was the result of an error subsequently recognised and corrected.

   Furthermore, with regard to the alleged official maps of the Canadian Government and the correspondence of 1874, Canada submits that no action of the Government of Newfoundland or of Canada, and no admission on the part of either or both could effect any extension of the territory described in the instruments of 1763—still less any action or admission of any Governor, executive authority or officer or employee of either of the said countries. No action or admission affecting the territory of either the Dominion or of the Colony would be the action or admission of such Dominion or Colony unless taken or made by their respective legislatures, and even if taken or made by these bodies, could effect no change of territorial juridisdiction. Such a change could be made by imperial legislation and Imperial legislation alone.

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   REASON 3: Because under the law of nations at the times material to be considered for the purposes of the present inquiry, the occupation of a "coast" conferred a right to the hinterland as far as the height of land.

   12. The argument which this "Reason" is apparently intended to invoke is set in par. 38 of the Colony's Case. In this paragraph, the Colony contends that, apart from all other considerations, the line of the crest of the watershed is "the only boundary in the interior for which any principle of reason or law can fairly be advanced," asserting that at the material dates international law had settled the point that the occupation of a "coast" would have conferred upon the occupying State a right to the hinterland as far as the height of land, and that, "by parity of reasoning," the grant of a "coast" would, in the absence of indication to the contrary, confer jurisdiction over an area similarly limited.

   13. To this "Reason,"—the Colony's main contention—two answers, which it is submitted are conclusive, may be made: In the first place, the "Law of Nations" has absolutely no application to the questions that arise herein. The Law of Nations governs exclusively the relations of different States and is applicable only to the determination of questions arising between such States. Here no such question arises. The right of sovereignty over the whole of the area to which the present controversy relates was in 1763, has been at all times since, and is indisputably vested in the Crown of Great Britain. The Court is called upon to decide simply the effect of the acts done by the sovereign authority of one and the same State having for their purpose the fixing of the instrumentality through which the government of a particular part of that one and the same State should be carried on.

   In the second place, even were the matter one to be governed or affected by the "Law of Nations," Canada submits that there never was, and does not now exist, any recognized rule of international law to the effect stated in this "Reason." The cases in which the so-called rule has been invoked (begin-



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