Confederation
1864-1949



The Labrador Boundary


Privy Council Documents


Volume I

Volume II

Volume III

Volume IV

Volume V

Volume VI

Volume VII

Volume VIII

Volume IX

Volume X

Volume XI
Contents

Volume XII








5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

Lord Warrington.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

The Lord Chancellor.

Mr. Geoffrion.




p. 712

strongest pieces of evidence of long and intimate connection with the French regime ; and your Lordships are only referred to that as one of the very numerous passages that I could read in support of that proposition that these Indians were all Catholicised. I do not care how deep their Catholicism is. That is not material to my question.

Lord WARRINGTON : I suppose that these Roman Catholics were probably Montagnais, who were constantly visiting Canada.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Yes, my Lord.

Lord WARRINGTON : They were the people who traded with the St. Lawrence, the King's posts.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Yes, my Lord ; and since the Hudson's Bay Company opened a post up at Lake Melville, some of them took that direction also. That is illuminating, with regard to the Frenchified or Roman Catholicised character of these Indians ; and I might suggest to your Lordships that your Lordships may assume that “ Catholic ” and “ French ” here mean the same thing. In those days the religion was part of the Government. In Canada at least the evangelising of the Catholic religion was part of the activity of the King to make them French allies ; and it is so much that I do not think they would understand or know what is an English–speaking Roman Catholic priest.
We have a very interesting illustration of that in a debate between the Archbishop of Newfoundland, who was a Roman Catholic archbishop, and the Archbishop of Quebec, The Archbishop of Newfoundland, when this shore was given to Newfoundland, had to recur to the help of the Archbishop of Quebec and ask him to fulfil his function to go and meet these people when they came down to the coast. For these Indians, and for the French Government, “ French ” and “ Roman Catholic ” are the same thing. We have that piece of evidence, and that also shows how unimportant in commercial and ethnological matters the divide is. These people were going to the coast when there was no post at Lake Melville, and now that there is one, they go to Lake Melville.
With regard to the point about the administration of justice in Newfoundland, I find in the same volume a series of pages, showing that from 1834 to 1863 the justice was a blank.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : We have had that. The Court was abolished.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Yes, my Lord, but beyond that there were appeals and complaints and so on ; there was disorder, and everybody was complaining, but that made no difference. I suppose that your Lordships will accept my summary of it, but I have the pages and can refer to them if necessary. They are pages 1425, 1426. 1427, 1430 and 1492.

p. 713

Now, my Lords, the Customs Duties Department of Newfoundland is the only point that I have not yet dealt with. My suggestion is that that remained until 1863. There was an attempt made in 1841 to collect duties, and your Lordships had the correspondence read to you about it, where the merchants complained against Newfoundland exacting Customs duties, and the Imperial Government ruled in favour of the Newfoundland Government. But if your Lordships will turn to page 1514, at about line 20, you will see that it there says : “ About fifteen years since a similar demand was made by the Governor of Newfoundland ; the parties interested in the trade on the coast of Labrador, applied to the Imperial authorities by petition and otherwise on the subject, since which no demand was made by the Governor of Newfoundland.”—15 years ago is 1841, the time of the correspondence whereby the Labrador merchants complained that Customs should not be paid. Then you read, in line 23, that “ It was considered the right then asserted to collect duties on the coast was abandoned.” I am suggesting, therefore, that the effort of 1841 to collect duties was very weak. I do not say that they did not get a few dollars, but at all events it was not much.
Then, if your Lordships will turn to page 1518, you there have the first indication of a systematic endeavour to collect Customs in 1863. Therefore, we have the Customs question arising in 1863. How does that really have any influence upon the point that we are considering, namely the interpretation of the document made, resulting from continuous and lengthly action by one party, acquiesced in by the other ? I am trying to give a definition in my own words of what I suggest is a paraphrase of the judgment.
In 1863 they began to collect the Customs, and I am not challenging their right to collect Customs. They own a barrier there unquestionably, separating Canada from the coast. They can be as discriminating as they like. They can say : “ We will not insist upon Customs going to Ungava, but we will insist, upon Customs going to Ashuanipi.” But as far as Canada is concerned, Canada has nothing to say. The barrier must be passed, and Newfoundland can require what it likes for letting it be passed. It is a barrier, and we must submit to whatever the position is.

Viscount FINLAY : What pages were you referring to ?

Mr. GEOFFRION: Pages 1514 and 1518. This, I suggest, gives your Lordships what is material on the Customs question, with my admission that they have the right to collect Customs. They have their post at Rigolet, and to that extent it is an assertion by them, possibly that their jurisdiction went to Rigolet, but nothing more. There was no interest for Canada going and saying : “ Move your post further out.” It would not have changed the situation at all.
Therefore, I suggest broadly that on analysis, and when it is sifted, the Newfoundland chapter on possession, in so far as it has a bearing on the question, as to throwing light by common and constant and

p. 714

lengthy action, upon the meaning of the legislation, is remarkable by its insignificance. There is no doubt that starving Indians were aided in the recent times, and perhaps earlier ; but I do not know who would not do that.
Now, my Lords, this brings me to what I suggest is an extremely important chapter.

Lord WARRINGTON : May I interrupt you for one moment, just to go back to page 1519. You will see there that there is a notice issued by the Colonial Secretary, or at any rate by the Government of Newfoundland that “ revenue will be collected on that part of the Labrador Coast lying within the Government of Newfoundland and the proceeds applied so far as may be necessary to the expense of protecting the fisheries on that Coast and of the maintenance there of a court of Limited Civil and criminal Jurisdiction.” That seems to be protested against, but only by merchants, including, I think, the authorities of Hudson's Bay. It is not a protest by Canada.

Mr. GEOFFRION : I do not see exactly how they would be hurt very much. Your Lordship must appreciate the position. Canada's claim was, and still is to–day, on Indian hunting grounds ; and, of course, the news of Customs duties would not travel very much over there. Your Lordship must not forget that this is still a wilderness and still an Indian hunting ground inland. The position has changed very slightly there. The hunting grounds elsewhere have disappeared, and the Indians are hemmed into the reserves. The Montagnais are one of the few tribes that still remain at large, because this territory has not been invaded by the white people. Your Lordships must re-remember that an act of that kind would have to be very emphatic to have reached Canada ; and particularly, also, the protest was wrong. Canada could not object, in our view, to duty being collected. How could Canada have said that Newfoundland could not put up its Customs barrier on this boundary, when the boundary was being crossed ? It might have been done by an agreement for payment of duty in bond, but that is another matter.
My Lords, I suggest therefore that the possession chapter if considered in the light of the two considerations, first, that we do not deny that there is an absolute control of a strip of coast, secondly, that what is required is a sort of action acquiesced in, emphatic and serious enough to show an understanding on the subject, and long enough to be used as interpreting the documents, and if you remember how wild and remote that part was from Canada there is nothing I suggest, there that in any way advances the Newfoundland claim to the land,
Now I Intend to come, with your Lordships' permission, to a very important chapter. the French regime chapter of Canadian possession, and then my last chapter will be the Canadian continuance of it. The French regime part is important in my humble view from two points of view, first from the point of view that it is a circumstance existing at the time of the Proclamation, it was previous to it, and second from the

p. 715

point of view that it is a circumstance bearing on the Indian question which in itself I suggest bears on the coast question, When I say “ the coast ” question I mean the meaning of the word “ coast ” as regards the matter of the extent of the Indian reservation because your Lordships will appreciate this, being the Indians' hunting ground ex hypothesi, the relations with the Indians will be the evidence of the French jurisdiction, possession and control.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : I do not quite see why it is important yet, it was all French at that time except the Hudson's Bay Territory.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Not from the point of view of possession strictly, but from the point of view of the question whether these were Indians under the protection of the King, and connected with him, and so on. The possession previous to the Canadian regime cannot be said to be strictly important on that branch, it is important on the other branch, because I say it throws some light indirectly on the other question because undoubtedly when you see how deep and how ancient were the ties between these Indians and the French–Quebec Government it is difficult to assume that it was all broken asunder in 1763, and there is evidence that it was not. The second branch is the least important, the first one is the more important of the two, but I want to treat both together.
In this respect I have to challenge very seriously the suggestion on the historical field of my learned friend Sir John Simon. If your Lordships will turn back to page 2704 in Volume VI, the bulk of my references will be from that volume. I can sum it up in a few words, it is part of the relation of Champlain who published a book of his voyages and so on. You will notice there that there was concluded at Tadousac, or a place quite near to Tadousac an alliance as early as 1603 between the Indians of that district anyway and their enemies who were the Iroquois. The scene is picturesquely related : There was the smoking of the pipe and so on, I will not delay your Lordships' time on all these details, the essence of it. is that in 1603, five years before the finding of Quebec, Champlain made an alliance with the Algonquins represented evidently by the Montagnais against, the Iroquois, and it rather suggests that it was the turning point in the conflict that ended on the Plains of Abraham in 1763. It may seem to your Lordships far fled, but I want to show the importance of that alliance as staring the political relations. What we have therefore is in 1603 the alliance. Your Lordships know where Tadousac is, Tadousac is on the eastern side of the Saguenay River right where was the Head Office of the King's Posts, therefore the chief rendezvous of these Montagnais Indians and whatever Naskapis could come down from a distance for the very simple reason say like the St. John's and the rivers above were the best navigating channel to go through the woods. When Champlain penetrated there before he found Quebec he found Indians on that coast, listened to their story, and possibly mistakenly made an alliance which was the foundation of the history of New France afterwards.
5 B

p. 716

Before I go on and show the importance of it may I ask your Lordships to turn to page 2712. Your Lordships will bear in mind these are the Montagnais, they cannot be any other, with some Naskapis.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Does my friend say that page 2704 records the making of an alliance, because I do not see the line at the page.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Lines 18 and 19 : “ Faire paix auec leurs ennemis (qui sont les Irocois), ou leur enuoyer des forces pour les vaincre.” Later on after the “ Ho, ho, ho,” that is approval, that means, Oui, oui, “ Luy, continuant toufiours saditte harangue.” That is the Indians answering.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I should have thought it was a party.

Mr. GEOFFRION : It is lines 18, 19 and 20.

Sir JOHN SIMON : It is a festivity.

Mr. GEOFFRION: It is a festivity, they all did their things in festivities.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : They had taken some natives to France, and one of them made a harangue to the natives, they listened in great silence and finally said : “ Ho, ho, ho,” which means, “ Yes.”

Mr. GEOFFRION : The point is it was stated that he would get peace from their enemies, who were the Iroquois, or would help them to defeat them. Your Lordships will see what happened afterwards. They thanked him. Line 19 is that the alternative to peace is war, and at line 20, war, because I suppose the Indians in answering were quite convinced there was no peace. I can quite see the Ambassador for France speaking of peace or war at line 18, and then I can quite see the Indians speaking only of war because they had had experience of peace. One can understand how Treaties were made, they did not write them.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : It is translated “ Festival ” up above.

Mr. GEOFFRION : “ Faire paix auec leurs ennemis (qui sont les Irocois), on leur enuoyer des forces pour les vaincre.” Then, of course, that is the starting point ; there is no doubt a Treaty between Champlain and these Indians could not be a formal document of this sort, but it was followed up very seriously by battles which ended in endless wars. All I want to say is there we have the fact of Champlain telling them we will either get peace from your enemies, the Iroquois, or we will help you to defeat them, and they are asserting we are glad you are going to help us defeat them. I take it that that is as high a treaty as you could make with these people then. Page 2712 is from another point of view. Page 2712 may seem perhaps rather beside the question, but I

[1927lab]




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