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








21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount
Haldane.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

The Lord
Chancellor.

Viscount
Haldane.


p. 31

the value of spruce at the top of Hamilton Inlet had never occurred to anybody. It is not until people have discovered that you can make paper out of pulp, and pulp out of spruce, that anybody begins to take acute interest in this.

Viscount HALDANE: There was the fishing, too. How was it done? The fish were caught; and were they dried?

Sir JOHN SIMON: There were several fisheries. The most important, although not the only one, was a cod fishery; and generally speaking with regard to that there was the process which your Lordship described, which involved landing, and having stages to dry the cod on, and so on. But in addition to that, there was an important salmon fishery.

Viscount HALDANE: In those days?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord. You will find references to it, and you will come to it shortly. There was also a fishery of what was called the sea cow, which I think means the walrus, and there was a big whale fishery. So that although these things do not all bulk as important at the same moment, it is quite inaccurate to treat the fisheries associated with Newfoundland as being limited to cod.

Viscount HALDANE: If there was salmon fishery, the salmon would go up the river at certain seasons.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Certainly, my Lord.

Viscount HALDANE: And they would have to be caught up there.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I am going to show your Lordship in time how the Courts of Newfoundland have without protest dealt with complaints as to the obstruction of the salmon fishery at the mouth of the river, which is 120 miles back from the point which the Dominion of Canada says is the end of our property. So that there is plenty to show that at any rate we have conceived that we could go hack. However, here is the Proclamation. As I have said, Thomas Graves, who was a sailor, a captain, was already Governor of Newfoundland; but down to this moment his Commission was, of course, limited to the Island of Newfoundland. Now your Lordship sees, the definitive Treaty of Paris having been signed, and the whole thing having now to be surveyed, one of the things done in the Treaty is that there is an area—I am not saying for the moment how big or how small it is, or how far it goes back—which is put under the Government of Newfoundland, and that is the origin of Newfoundland's interest in the mainland of Labrador.
Perhaps your Lordships will look at the words of the Treaty. It is

p. 32

on page 149 of the first volume, and the whole of it is important: “George the Third,” and so on, “to our Trusty and Well beloved Thomas Graves, Esquire, Greeting.” Then it begins with a recital which we must read, because it is the most convenient way of seeing what was the extent of the earlier Commission of Thomas Graves. It says: “Whereas we did by our Letters Patent under Our Great Seal of Great Britain, bearing date at Westminster the twenty-ninth day of May in the first year of Our Reign”—that was in 1760, and therefore was before the Treaty of Paris; until you had the Treaty of Paris you could not do more—“appoint you the said Thomas Graves to be our Governor and Commander in Chief in and over Our Island of Newfoundland in America. Our ffort and Garrison at Placentia”—that is at Newfoundland—“and all other fforts and Garrisons Erected and to be Erected in that Island for and during Our Will and Pleasure as by the said Letters Patent Relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear. Now know You that Wee have revoked determined and made void and by these Presents Do revoke determine and make void the said Recited Letters Patent and every clause Article and Thing therein contained. And Wee reposing especial Trust and Confidence in the Prudence Courage and Loyalty of you the said Thomas Graves of our especial Grace certain knowledge and meer Motion have thought fit to constitute and appoint and by these presents do constitute and appoint you the said Thomas Graves to be our Governor and Commander in Chief in and over our said Island of Newfoundland and all the Coasts of Labrador.”
Now if I may present to your Lordships this case under the attractive guise of a short point, the short point of this whole controversy is: What extent of territory is to be understood as indicated by “All the coasts of Labrador”?

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: “From the entrance”—

Sir JOHN SIMON: These are mere lateral limits. I will com of them presently, but I want your Lordships for the moment to appreciate how we put our case. We say that just as “the coasts to Virginia” means a particular length of the Atlantic seaboard with the land associated therewith back to the height of land; just as “the area of the Hudson's Bay Company” is not Hudson's Bay, but goes back to the height of land which is drained into Hudson's Bay; just as you find—and I am going to give you many more illustrations both before and immediately afterwards—just as you find in other cases that this is the natural or logical or scientific boundary, and it is the only one which nature will give you, so we say here that when the grant was of “all the coasts of Labrador𔄭 between two limits, it was not what our friends from Canada are now saying, very late in the day and in striking contradiction with the whole series of atlases and maps which have been put forward. It does not mean strip or selvedge the width of a piece of tape, or a mile wide, but it means something which has got a definite connotation without taking any artificial

p. 33

measurement, namely, the area which is indicated as running up to the height of land. That is the point of this case.

Viscount HALDANE: That is to say, he was invested with a commission without any definite boundaries at all. The whole thing was so vague at that time. Canada was vague, Acadia was vague, Hudson's Bay was vague.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, that is quite true; but this is at once the difficulty, and (as perhaps your Lordship may think) the attractiveness of the conundrum. I am only stating to your Lordship the suggestion that I most respectfully make to the Tribunal. There will be very great difficulty, I think, in anybody, whether on the other side or elsewhere, suggesting any other limit which is not vague.

Viscount HALDANE: You have not lessened our difficulty by telling us very emphatically that we are here not to draw a boundary, but to interpret an existing boundary.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I am bound to tell your Lordships so. Although I am sure, with the authority of Colony of Newfoundland, I would most gladly put this matter in your Lordships' hands for other and perhaps more summary treatment, it is not what you are told to do; so that we must do the same thing as well as we can.
Now that is the point of this case. We have to trace it rather carefully through the statutory history, and the history of the Orders in Council. You will find that this area, whatever this area is—let us call it X for the moment—becomes at one time the Dependency of Newfoundland, becomes at another time added to the Province of Quebec, becomes at a third time split into two parts—the pink part, your Lordship appreciates, and the rest, so that the pink part is given to Quebec while the rest remains with Newfoundland; and all the way through you will find one has to go back to this expression: “all the coasts of Labrador.”

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: It does not stop there, does it?

Sir JOHN SIMON: No, my Lord, you are quite right. It is perhaps dangerous to go through the rhetorical process of pausing there for a moment, because the moment may be rather unduly extended. It goes on: “All the coasts of Labrador from the entrance of Hudson's Streights to the River Saint Johns which discharges itself into the Sea nearly opposite the West End of the Island of Anticosti including that Island with any other small Islands on the said Coast of Labrador and also the Islands of Madelaines in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as also of all Our fforts and Garrisons Erected and Established or that shall be Erected and Established in our said Islands of Newfoundland Anticosti and Madelaine.”

p. 34

Now, my Lords, I am most anxious to call attention to the significance of these lateral termini, because this point, of course, at once emerges: ever since 1670 the Hudson Bay Company had had an area, which, you will remember, by the language of its Charter, is an area “in the Bay of Hudson” and so on, lying within the entrance of Hudson's Streights. Therefore, when this Commission is drawn up, and it is desired to make provision for the territories we are now concerned with, in the light of the Treaty of Paris, it is not unnatural that the extension of the jurisdiction of the Governor of Newfoundland at any rate should not trench upon Hudson Bay territory, and your Lordships will notice, and I think it is well worth noting, that if you take page 149, line 31, you find the expression, “from the Entrance of Hudsons Streights,” whereas if you will remind yourselves of the Charter of the Hudson Bay Company, which is in Volume 2 at page 367, you will find that the lateral limit from which this begins is, “The entrance of the Straits, commonly called Hudson's Straits.” Taking this rather convenient little map, which I see Lord Finlay and others of your Lordships have before you, that is to say it is Cape Chidley. Now may I ask your Lordships to observe the extreme significance of that. Here were the British authorities, who knew perfectly well that this powerful Corporation, represented by distinguished citizens of London, and distinguished noblemen, had got already an area carved out which was theirs. When therefore you are now going to distribute these additional areas, and you begin by distributing “All the coasts of Labrador” to Newfoundland, you are careful to make the two areas fit, and at any rate get a common terminus a quo. Now, my Lords, this question then at once arises: Is it really to be supposed that the boundary of the Hudson Bay territory, starting from Cape Chidley and running on a certain course inland, is an Eastern boundary which is not coincident with the Western boundary of the other? Of course, if one is prepared to accept the test that a grant of coast in circumstances like these means that you run back from the margin of the sea to the point of the divide, the problem is solved, and you at once get, by a natural scientific formula, or provision, in theory, though possibly not at the moment located on the ground, a distribution of this area as between these two authorities; but on the other hand, if we are really to pay attention to the proposition that “All the coasts of Labrador” in this document meant something a mile wide or half a mile wide—I think the Dominion in their case suggests they have been a little generous about their mile—what an extraordinary thing! The first consideration on the construction of this document which suggests itself is this—it is so plain that the people who drew this document at any rate were careful at the one end to start at a place which really was prescribed for them by the limits of the Hudson Bay territory. This is a little bit confirmed by a further factor which I might mention now, which is, that in some later version of the defining of the area you get the words “Cape Chidley” used. Cape Chidley is, in fact, the prominent point here, which is, as it were, the spike

p. 35

of the headland. The other limit you will notice in this document is the River St. John, or St. Johns. Whatever the reason may be, that particular sort of appellation is constantly used in this part of the world ; and one of the things one has to remember in this case is, for example, that the River St. John is nowhere near another land mark which is referred to, the Lake St. John. They both come in in a definition which we shall reach very shortly; but they are not close to one another at all. You will find both on the little map. You will find that the Lake St. John is at the head of the Saguenay River; the River St. John, on the other hand, is a river which comes out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the point where the pink area meets the blue area.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Just opposite the West end of Anticosti Island?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes. my Lord; indeed it is so described in a document we are coming to in a moment. Now for a moment would you please consider also whether there is not any significance in the choice of a river as the boundary of the coasts of Labrador, with those who drew up the Commission of Thomas Graves, selected as the other terminus. Of course, if the Colony of Newfoundiand is right in its contention, that whatever may have been the immediate purpose to be served, and I quite agree that was a mere maritime thing, this language of grant on its true interpretation would really embrace an area of territory which has such an extent of seaboard, and then runs up to a point, of course the choice of a river, which naturally will carry you up to the height of land, is quite appropriate. I do not mean to say that that is at all a conclusive argument.

Viscount HALDANE: Where do you say that Labrador stops, at the West of St. John?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not say so, but what I say is that I am given the coasts of Labrador so far as those coasts lie between the entrance to Hudson Bay and the River St. John. That is the language of the grant.

Viscount HALDANE: Let us look at the language of the grant.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It is page 149. You will see the new territory, at line 30, is, “Our said Island of Newfoundland and all the Coasts of Labrador from the Entrance of Hudson's Streights to the River St. Johns which discharges itself into the Sea nearly opposite the West End of the Island of Anticosti.” There is no doubt at all that Labrador is the peninsula and there is no doubt at all (I shall come to documents in a moment which show it) that you might quite properly speak, as Lord Haldane suggested, of the Coasts of Labrador as running more to the West than the River St. John. The point is that there being coasts

[1927lab]




Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home