The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume I


Canada Atlas,Maps 2A,2B,and 13.

Page 59
sponsored by
Dr. Evan Simpson,
St. John's, NL

Vol. 8
Canada Atlas 7A, 7B, 8 and 19, 29 and 35.

Page 60
sponsored by
Dr. David Graham,
St. John's, NL

Page 61
sponsored by
Tanya Saunders,
Conception Bay South, NL

Page 62
sponsored by
the Labrador Institute,
Happy Valley - Goose Bay, NL

p. 59

Chidley, the rivers themselves are to be treated precisely in the same way as the land through which they flow, that is to say the physical line represented by the high-water mark on the sea-coast (from which the boundary line of the coast inland is to be measured and located) is to be taken as crossing the mouth of each river at the point which marks the limit between the river and the sea. Most of the rivers discharging on the coast are inconsiderable streams, but at one place, namely, at that point on the coast where the Hamilton River system through its outlet, the river known as the “Narrows,” falls into the sea or inlet, the location of the coast-line is a matter of special importance. This is by reason of the fact that the area affected is probably the most valuable portion of the territory in dispute. It was attempted encroachments by Newfoundland within this territory that brought the question of the boundary now submitted to a definite issue. The Hamilton River system, of which the Narrows is the channel of discharge, is one of the principal river systems of the Peninsula. It includes, in addition to the great trunk stream of that name and its large expansion, Lake Melville, many tributaries of which the most important are the Northwest (the outlet of Grand Lake and its tributaries) and the Kenamou rivers. These rivers flow into Lake Melville near its head.

  The outlet from Lake Melville by the Narrows is divided by a large island—Henrietta island—into two relatively shallow streams, one passing to the westward and the other to the eastward of the Island. These streams join on the north-east side of the Island in a single stream which flows in a channel, confined for the most part by bold, rocky banks, and of an average width of little over a mile for a distance of about seven miles to Double Mer and Lester Points. Below these Points, the channel widens out slightly and in this part is joined by the long, narrow water-way called Double Mer which opens up to the west-ward. Further on, the channel contracts to a width of about two miles and terminates, at a distance of about seven miles from Double Mer and Lester Points, in two points called Ticoralak and Turner headlands, where it discharges into the open expanse of the Hamilton inlet. Lake Melville is tidal though the rise is small. Sea fish, such as cod and other

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forms of marine life, do not inhabit its waters. The behaviour of the flow and the character of the water in the Narrows are distinctively characteristic of a tidal river.

   That the coast-line crosses the river below a line connecting Lester and Double Mer Points is, it is submitted, clearly established by the results of the various surveys, tests and investigations carried out in these waters and set forth in the reports by the Canadian Hydrographic and Tidal Survey Branch, the Geodetic Survey of Canada, and the Geological Survey of Canada, and by the other documents which will be found in the joint appendix. Where this line is to be located cannot be stated with exactitude, but the conditions all indicate that the coastline would be properly drawn between Ticoralak and Turner headlands.


  The Dominion of Canada, therefore, submits that the true boundary between Canada and Newfoundland in the Labrador peninsula is a line demarking the area of the coast accessible and useful for the fishery, in accordance with the second of the above propositions. It is recognized that it may be found impracticable to lay down such a line upon the land. Neither party should suffer by reason of this difficulty. Canada, however, suggests, though it involve some sacrifice of territory on her part, that the boundary be located and defined as a line to be drawn from the eastern headland of the bay or harbour of Blanc Sablon, on the south, to Cape Chidley, on the north, at a distance from high-water mark on the sea-coast of the peninsula of Labrador of one mile.


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A N N E X.


   It will be convenient to set out the facts to be adverted to under this heading in the order of the historical periods signalised by the several legislative changes affecting the governmental administration of the coast of Labrador.


   1. In consequence of the Treaty of Paris of the 10th February, 1763, it became necessary for the British Government to make plans for the government and administration of Canada and the other newly acquired territories in North America. The first measures taken by Great Britain were to make effective, on her part, the exclusive possession of the valuable fisheries on the coasts of Labrador as well as on the coasts of Newfoundland and in contiguous waters.

   On the 8th March, 1763, the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Planations (herinafter referred to as the Lords of Trade) were instructed by the Secretary of State to consider the fifth and sixth Articles of the Treaty with relation to French fishing rights with a view to proposing any necessary changes in the instructions to the Governor of Newfoundland.

   On the 15th March, they reported that, these fisheries having become a matter of infinite extent and of the utmost importance, some additional measures and additional instructions were absolutely necessary for securing the exclusive possession of them to His Majesty's subjects and preventing the French from partaking of the benefit thereof. With regard to the coast of Labrador, it would be impossible, they said, to secure the exclusive possession of the fisheries on this coast within the Gulf or to prevent the French continuing to have the full benefit of their former commerce with the Indians on that coast, unless some British settlements

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should be made there or sufficient cruisers stationed with instructions to the commanders to seize all French ships coming within a certain distance of that coast.

   2. As it was not of the policy of the Government to encourage settlements on that coast, the former alternative was set aside and the problem of a coast guard was solved by the King's decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Governor of Newfoundland to the coast of Labrador. This decision was communicated by the Secretary of State to the Lords of Trade on the 24th March, and they were, accordingly, instructed to prepare drafts of a fresh commission and amended instructions for the Governor of Newfoundland.

   3. The new Commission dated April 25th, 1763, appointed Captain Thomas Graves to be Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Island of Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador in the terms hereinabove quoted. His powers, as set forth in his Commission, were similar to those given in the commissions of previous Governors. He was given power to appoint judges and commissioners of Oyer and Terminer for the hearing of all criminal causes (treason excepted) according to law, and for awarding execution thereupon, and justices of the peace with other necessary officers for the administration of justice and keeping the peace of the said Island and coast. But he was enjoined that, in the exercise of the powers conferred upon him by the Commission, neither he nor any of the officers whom he might appoint should do anything repugnant to the Act of 10 & 11 William III., chap. 25, and he was particularly forbidden to interfere with the Admirals of Harbours or Captains of His Majesty's ships of war, in the performance of their duties under this Act.

   The commissions given to the succeeding Governors, during this period (Captain Hugh Palliser, 1764-1768; Captain John Byron, 1769-1771, and Commodore Shuldham, 1771-1774) were similar, in all material respects, to Graves' commission.

   4. His Instructions, dated 29th March, 1763, set forth in 76 articles, related mainly to the general

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supervision and protection of the fishery, the enforcement of the regulations of the Act of 10 & 11 William III., chap. 25, with relation to the trade and fishery at Newfoundland, and reporting on the state of the trade and fishery there.

   These Instructions were reinforced by the Instructions which he received from the Lords of the Admiralty, on the 2nd May, as Commander of the Kings's ships on the Newfoundland station. He was directed, inter alia, to settle and guard the fisheries on the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador as far north as British subjects should be employed in catching and drying fish.

   5. So far the measures of the Government were confined to securing the exclusive possession of the fisheries on the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. On the 5th May, 1763, the Lords of Trade were ordered to report by what regulations the most extensive advantages might be derived from the cessions on the continent of North America made by France and Spain by the Treaty of Paris and How those advantages might be rendered most permanent and secure to His Majesty's trading subjects. In their report of the 8th June, 1763, the Lords of Trade discussed at length the different advantages arising from the cessions made by the Treaty of Peace. In considering how these advantages could be rendered most permanent and secure to His Majesty's trading subjects, they had to take into account three separate interests, fortunately so localised that conflict between them was unnecessary. These interests were: (1) the settled portion of the country, which was occupied by French inhabitants and a steadily increasing number of British people from Great Britain and the older colonies; (2) the tribes of Indians whose hunting grounds lay to the east, north, west and south of the settled districts; and (3) the British fishermen whose seasonal operations in Newfoundland waters were being extended to the waters on the coast of Labrador.

   6. The Lords of Trade submitted, as their opinion, that the advantages resulting from the cessions could only be secured and improved by an immediate establishment of regular civil governments in



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