The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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5 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Mr. Geoffion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Gcoffrion.

The Lord Chancellor.

Mr. Geoffrion.

Sir John Simon.

5 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Mr. Macmillan.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Gcoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Gcoffrion.

Viscount Finlay.

Mr. Geoffrion.

Lord Warrington.

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Sir JOHN SIMON : I am not doubting it. I am asking what date you are quoting from. If you are quoting from a finite recent thing, I understand, but I thought you were referring to things hundreds of years ago.

Mr. GEOFFRION : I am content to base my argument on what my learned friend, Mr. Macmillan, read, I think, on the first day of his argument on that question. There is much more material. The are hundreds of pages. The Nascopies were north of Hamilton River; it was a marvellous natural boundary ; and the Montagnais were south. There is no suggestion anywhere of the Montagnais' hunting ground being cut up by any height of land. The character of the height of land and of the country would he against such a suggestion. It was a very flat place, and the passage by portages and the method of these Indians of travelling by light bark canoes which they carried on their backs would be against such a suggestion.

Viscount HALDANE : Do you say the Montagnais were exclusively to the east ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : The Montagnais went to Lake Mistassini. We find posts showing that they went to the Mistassini River.

Viscount HALDANE : Then the height of land was not their boundary ?

Mr. GEOFFRTON : No, the height of land was nobody's boundary as regards the Indians.

Viscount FINLAY : I very much doubt whether, in determining the hunting ground, the height of land world form the boundary.

Mr. GEOFFRION : There is no doubt that the Indians of the west always would have their boundaries made by the Rocky Mountains. Here according to the passage read by my friend, and according to an inspection of this relief map and a knowledge of the Indians' habits, the watershed did not and could not play any part in the hunting ground question. It is proved in various ways. It is proved that the same tribe of Indians comes to trade at three places, the St. Lawrence River, Esquimaux Bay and Hudson's Bay. Later on, when discussing another aspect of the question, I will point out to your Lordships passages in ancient authories indicating that for all these Indians the three posts were competing posts ; the Hudson's Bay post, the Lake Melville post on the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence River post were competing posts. When Widow Furnell, in the dying days of the French regime (I will give the reference later), asked for a concession at Lake Melville for trade, the objection made by the lessee of the King's Post is that this post at Lake Melville would draw away the trade which he gets at the St. Lawrence post. Well, if the hunters would hesitate between going

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to that Lake or going to the St. Lawrence, is there any better evidence against the view that the watershed was the factor ?

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Do you know the elevation of what you call the height of land, above the sea, at the part that you call the appendix ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : I cannot say at the moment, but I can get that for your Lordship.

Mr. MACMILLAN : I think you may take it generally as described as a flat plateau.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I can tell your Lordship at once.

Mr GEOFFRION : May I give your Lordship something that may be illuminating, not as to the level, but as to the incline. In Volume V. at page 2603, is a report by Mr. Low on the geology. He says : “ The strong glaciation of the highest hills in the interior, on the edges of the neve region, the constant directions of the striae over hill and valley, and the fact that the general slope of the plateau from the interior outwards is very slight and does not exceed two or three feet per mile until within a few miles of the coast, all point to a considerable thickness of ice in the interior such as to cause the strong, radial flow of the ice evidenced by the glaciation of the region.”

Sir JOHN SIMON : I can answer my Lord's question, if he would care for it ; the figures are here, if my friend does not mind.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Not at all.

Sir JOHN SIMON : If, for instance, you take the lake which is called Attikonak Lake, that is to say, at the southern end of that, you will find that the lake has a height above the sea of 1,700 ft ; if, on the other hand, your Lordship travels a little north–west to the extreme western limit of my enclave, I see that 1,750 ft. is the height of the water running into the Lake Menihek ; in the same way I see there is a little lake called Flour Lake or Lobstick, which is 1,630 ft., and close by it is 1,650 ft. I think your Lordships may take it that is the kind of height.

Viscound FINLAY : 1,600 or 1,700 ft. ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord, 1,600 or 1,700 ft. above the level of the sea.

Viscount HALDANE : What is the breadth of the plateau ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : It slopes down. There is evidently a fairly

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sharp drop at certain points. That, of course, would mean a most significant drop to the falls of the Hamilton River, which is very substantial indeed.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Otherwise it looks rather like a gradual incline.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I believe it does, my Lord, I believe that our little Plasticine model has been made, as far as proportions go, pretty accurately ; it was made very carefully.

Mr. MACMILLAN : I happen fortunately to have collected the phrases about this matter from both sides, and I find that Professor Gregory, the geologist, described that as a, plateau country, while Dr. Low described it as a high plateau, almost flat.

Mr. GEOFFRION : With regard to what my learned friend, Sir John Simon, said about Hamilton Falls, I would point out that Hamilton Falls fall into a deep gorge ; therefore, it does not mean that the level of the land changes so abruptly as he suggests. If your Lordships wanted details of the level, your Lordships have them at page 2594.
My Lords, I was approaching the question of the character of the Indians, and so on. The Montagnais was name given by the French to a branch of the Algonquins, because they lived in the mountains behind Quebec. They had their hunting grounds indefinitely in the direction of the Atlantic ; there was nobody to stop them in that direction ; they were the only ones ; and to the Hamilton River north, the Naseopies, their cousins, being beyond, and it is suggested that they sought to stop at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to the west ; the western boundary is not very important. What we are concerned with is the eastern boundary. The height of land between the Atlantic and Hudson's Bay, or the St. Lawrence and the north, played no part in the limiting ground. Its character would prevent it. But the fact that there was competition between posts for the trade would show it, and the description of the area of the hunting ground is across it. These Indians, as I will point out later on, were first the allies and subjects of the King of France. The connection was established in 1603, before the founding of the Province of Quebec. They were the continuous allies of France down to the capitulation, and were the closest neighbours of Quebec and were thus better known, and they must be those who were principally thought about when in the capitulation of Montreal a clause was inserted for the protection of the Indians.

Viscount FINLAY : Are you talking of the Montagnais ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : I am speaking of the Montagnais. They were in the hunting grounds all across that watershed. All this territory was unmistakably connected with and under the protection of—
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to use the words of the Proclamation—the King of France. I suggest that both under the capitulation and under the ordinary rules of international law those who were under the protection of the King of France passed under the protection of the King of England by the Treaty of Paris, unless the King of England chose to treat them as enemies, or as Lord Campbell says, “ put them all to the sword,” which is not the method practised in these modern days. What I desire to point out is that that was the understanding when Governor : Murray came, and that was the attitude of the new Government. But this point cannot be treated except by reference to the historical chapter, and my friend left me the historical chapter to deal with. For the present I will suspend that point.
I now want to say a very few words about the Commission of Captain Graves. A good deal has been said about the word “ Coasts ” being in the plural. I should have thought that was an extremely narrow point, but I suggest it is answered by pointing out that the singular and the plural are used indifferently in the Commission.
A good deal has been said in respect of the phrase which is to be found at line 32 on page 151, Volume I, in the Commission to Captain Graves, “ the coasts and territories of Labrador.” The phrase is important because my learned friends have quoted it expressly in their final memorandum. They have quoted this phrase as helpful to their case. I however wish to draw attention to the fact that the quotation is incomplets. I would like to complete it, because in my humble suggestion it is very material to complete it. The words really are : “ and all other inhabitants of our said islands, and the coasts and territories of Labrador and islands adjacent thereto.” It is quite probable that the “ coasts ” apply to Labrador, and the “ territories ” to the islands, because they have been speaking all the time of the coast of Labrador and nothing else. I see my learned friend, Sir John Simon, smiles. I do not see why when the word “ territories ” is introduced for the first time it should not be presumed to refer to something else than Labrador, when elsewhere where Labrador is spoken of, the phrase “ coasts of Labrador ” is always used. It would seem therefore when they speak of “ territories ” they are speaking of the islands themselves. At all events it Aras worth while putting the text accurately in the final memorandum. However, it is not a very important matter, because we concede that the jurisdiction was territorial. It was for fishery purposes and limited to the fishery district, but was undoubtedly in a certain sense territorial. It does not seem to me that the Commission adds very much to the solution of the question, and where we must look for the key to the situation is where the King announces to his subjects in the Proclamation what he has done.
Going back to the Proclamation therefore, my learned friends have put forward an argument against us based on the description of the Government of Quebec at page 153. My learned friends point out that there it says the Government of Quebec is “ bounded on the Labrador Coast by the River St. John, and from thence by a line dawn from the head of that river, through the lake St. John, to the south

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end of the Lake Nipissim.” My learned friend, Sir John Simon, says the River St. John is therefore a boundary in depth, and it must also be presumed to be a boundary in depth in the grant to Newfoundland referred to at page 154. I have two short answers to make to that, which I think are worthy of consideration. When you come to page 154 the River St. John is contrasted with Hudson Strait. It is “ all that coast from the River St. John's to Hudson's Streiglrts.” If the River St. John is a boundary in depth, there, why is not Hudson Strait not a boundary in depth ? There is no reason why one should be any more than the other. I do not think my learned friend can draw much satisfaction from the suggestion that the River St. John is to be deemed a boundary in depth there, and I do not suppose that even the description of the territory of Quebec the River St. John when first referred to is taken as a boundary in depth.

Viscount FINLAY : What do you mean by a “ boundary in depth ” ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : I mean a boundary that does not stop at the coast but goes right up to the source of the river. My friend's argument, as I understand it, is this. When you say “ bounded by the River St. John ” you mean bounded by the whole of the River St. John, and not only by the mouth of the River St. John. He says, therefore, the coast went as far as the head of the river.

Viscount FINLAY : “ Bounded by the River St. John ” would be equally applicable whether you are talking of the whole extent of the river, or of only a part of it.

Mr. GEOFFRION : That would be my answer. The word is ambiguous, and does not advance the matter.

Viscount FINLAY : Any part of the River St. John might bound a territory.

Mr. GEOFFRION : This expression, in my submission, does not refer either to the mouth or to the whole river, and you must be governed by the context. But my learned friend tries to say that it is the whole river, and therefore the coast goes up to the head of the river.

Sir JOHN SIMON : If I might suggest it to my friend. I think he should read the next three or four words in the sentence.

Mr GEOFFRION : I am coming to them.

Lord WARRINGTON : Surely it is the River St. John itself which is referred to as the boundary. It is bounded on the Labrador coast by the River St. John, and the next step is to go to the head of that river and take the line.
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