The Labrador Boundary

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21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Sir Thomas


21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.


Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.


p. 36

of Labrador, whatever that expression may mean, that is to say, there being areas which drain into the sea, and the water flowing open, which will enter the sea at various points along the margin of the sea, you get a definition of an area prescribed, and definable with the help of geography and survey, once you are told that all the heights, so far as Newfoundland gets them, start at the point where the Hudson Bay territory begins, and ends at the point where the River St. John runs down to the sea.

Viscount HALDANE: Is not that a little difficult; you are claiming a good deal West of that; you are claiming the whole of the upper reaches of the Hamilton River which are within this, and the River St. John runs up no doubt to the height of land, but does the height of land go round?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, if it does not, then my claim must, on the ground, be amended; but your Lordship appreciates that my claim is a claim in principle to the height of land.

Viscount HALDANE: You say the height of land goes round up to this point here. (Indicating.)

Sir JOHN SIMON: It does, my Lord.

Viscount HALDANE: It goes right round, and then comes up.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes; I am going to show your Lordships a whole series of maps, many of them contemporary or very shortly after this point which actually mark a division of this sort.

Viscount HALDANE: Then you put your case this way: boundary up the River St. John and then round, including the height of land, to Cape Chidley.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, subject to this, which is a point we have not yet reached, that at a later stage in the history there was taken away from Newfoundland and added to the Province of Quebec, an area which is there, coloured pink, and it was taken away under the description of, “Part of the Coast of Labrador hitherto administered by or annexed to Newfoundland”; and, of course, when I come to it, I am going to argue that the way in which that excision of the oblong was expressed, and the area which was then added to Quebec under the denomination of “The Coast of Labrador,” is a very strong indication that “Coast” is not this narrow selvedge, because that pink piece runs 40 miles inland at its Eastern edge. You notice there there is a place called Blanc Salbon and there is a line runs up that is 40 miles, consequently when you come to the Western side of the oblong, you have got a depth of something like 120 miles. That, of course, will be a consideration which comes later. There is the first

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of these two documents, and our submission about that document is that, upon its true construction when you have regard to the facts as they were at the time (perhaps one should rather say the facts as they were conceived to be at the time)—that is not the grant of a mere selvedge or lisière, but “all the coasts of Labrador,” as between these two lateral limits, does mean an area which runs up to the height of land, and that is the question.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: If this is a question of the construction of the word “coasts” in this document alone, there is one difficulty, is not there, that reference is made to the Islands on the Coast of Labrador?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I noticed that, and it is very important. Whatever may be the difficulties, this contrast is at any rate plain: you sometimes use the word “Coast” as it were from the sea, and you sometimes rise it from the land. A man will say, “I went cruising this summer in my yacht on the Coast of Cornwall,” by which he does not mean, if he was a reasonably successful navigator, that his ship reached the dry land, but he means that he has been skirting the margin of the County.

Viscount FINLAY: I think, in your sense of the word, it is particularly in the plural, “Coasts.”

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think so, too. It is useful to remember that (I do not think it is too far fetched at all) in the Authorised translation of the Bible you get phrases like “The Coasts of Tyre and Sidon”; you get, in the Acts of the Apostles, the account of how St. Paul, and, if I remember rightly, St. Barnabas, when they were in the interior of Asia Minor, were “thrown out of those coasts”; and the word “Coasts” in the English of that period, and there were many illustrations of it, was not, I apprehend, at all limited to this frontage, such as is suggested; and once again one comes back to this difficulty, which your Lordships, I am quite sure, will in due course be impressed with, and have to deal with; after all, what is the alternative? If your Lordships were here commissioned in order to draw such line as occurs to you to be good, or to give such depth as you think to he reasonable or prudent, or what not, that is another matter; but your Lordships are not asked to do anything of the kind; and what is the alternative? On what conceivable principle of construction can it be said that, whatever “all the Coasts of Labrador” means or does not mean, it can plausibly be said to mean something you get by applying a measure of a mile back from the sea shore? You get at once into a difficulty which is the more striking because they already knew that this was part of the world where there were deep indentations from the sea. You get into the further difficulty that, in that event, is it suggested that this mere strip skips from headland to headland, or is it suggested that it goes round as a map-maker might take his brush and trace every indentation of the coast?

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That is to say, if I may for the moment remind Lord Finlay of another controversy. This is not a case like the Alaska case, where, at any rate, a large part of the outline may perhaps be supposed to have been so ambiguous that language may have been used which did not fit it. The people who made this bargain, and talk about “the coasts,” knew perfectly well that along the boundaries of the sea there were deep inlets, because Davis, one of the famous early navigators in that region, had been into this part of the world, and there is on record in map after map, the fact that, on this very part of the coast, there was an inlet so deep that Davis, or somebody who was with him, had sailed up it and into it for 30 leagues, and had not reached the end of it; and one of the things which it was most important to ascertain was how far it went.

Viscount FINLAY: Of course, a line has no width.

Sir JOHN SIMON: A line has no width at all, and you must get the width somehow, otherwise it is length without breadth. While I am mentioning Davis, perhaps your Lordships would be interested to know that this very Governor Graves, at the same time as he got this Commission, was in terms, instructed that he was to make special investigation to discover how deep this particular inlet ran in.

Viscount HALDANE: Where is that?

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is to be found in the contemporary Instructions under the Sign Manual, which your Lordships will find in Volume 2 at page 393. May I just explain the relation of these documents. Your Lordships are familiar with the fact that the Governor General, or the Governor, of one of His Majesty's Dominions receives both his Commission under the Great Seal, which, of course, is the root of his Authority, and also receives Instructions under the Sign Manual, which are more detailed directions; and that practice prevails until to-day; would your Lordships observe paragraph 7; this is the contemporaneous Instruction to the same man: “It is our further Will and Pleasure that you do, from time to time, as the nature of the Service will allow, visit all the Coasts and Harbours of the said Islands and Territories under your Government, in order to inspect and examine the State and Condition of the Fisheries, which are or may be carried on upon the said Coasts and Islands; You shall also use your best Endeavours to procure accurate Draughts or Maps of the several Harbours, Bays and Coasts of Newfoundland, and the other Islands and Territories under your Government, and you are more particularly to direct the Officer of any Vessel under your Command, which may be appointed to visit that part of the Coast of Labradore which lyes between Hudson's Streights and the Streights of Bellisle,” that is to say, the Northern half of what you may call his area, “to search and explore the great Inlet commonly known by the name of Davis's Inlet, in order to discover, whether the same has or has not any passage to Hudson's, Bay, or any other inclosed Sea.”

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Viscount HALDANE: Is that the opening of the Hamilton River?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord.

Viscount FINLAY: Davis's Inlet is what is commonly called Davis's Strait, is it not?

Sir JOHN SIMON: No. My answer to Lord Haldane was correct, though one of my learned friends I think thought it was misleading. In fact, they had not got the geography accurate, but the thing they were referring to when they said there was this penetration, which you went into as much as 30 leagues, but never got to the end, was the thing which is called Hamilton Inlet. It is very useful to do this at once; would your Lordships mind turning once again to the Newfoundland Atlas and looking at Map No. 9. Of course, they did not get the geography right in their map, but you can see what they meant. Map No. 9 is a very interesting map indeed; it was drawn up by an Englishman of the name of John Senex in 1710. Your Lordships may take it a good deal of his material was really got from a French map made by a very famous French cartographer, and a very distinguished man, whose name was De Lisle. There are a number of the De Lisle Maps in this Volume, but I take this one because it is the easiest one for your Lordships to read. If you run your eye up the margin of the “Territory de la Bradore or New Britain” about half-way up you will see “An entry discovered by Davis in 1586 into which he sailed 30 leagues and trafficked with the natives.”

Viscount HALDANE: He never found the Hamilton River.

Sir JOHN SIMON: He never got so far; he never came to salmon. The interesting thing is this: here I am faced with a suggestion by the Canadian Government that the grant to me is a grant which is not only a grant of a mile strip. but that when you come to the Hamilton Inlet, the strip does not go back into the inlet at all, but crosses the jaws of it; I make myself plain, I think it is a familiar controversy in this class of case. Then you have the contemporaneous Instruction to Governor Graves, who is made amongst other things Governor and Commander in Chief of all the Coasts of Labrador, and he is particularly told in the exercise of his duties as such Governor to see how far this inlet goes in. You see what a queer state of knowledge the people had at that time, because there is another entry on the map; inside the land you see “A River which the savages say falls into the North Sea, after it has run 60 leagues, and the Great Bay according to the report of the savages.” That is on the body of Labrador, just below the end of the word “Labrador.”

Viscount HALDANE: That is Davis's entry?

Sir JOHN SIMON: This, of course, is speculation. It only shows, of course, that they did not quite know. The result was that when

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Captain Graves got his Commission, that is, amongst other things, what he is asked to do. Would you observe in the same way, the next paragraph, paragraph 8, “You are also to enquire and report to Us, by Our Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, whether any or what further Establishment may be necessary to be made, or Forts erected” now, “in any part of Newfoundland, or the other Islands or Territories under your Government, either for the Protection of the Fishery,” which I quite agree was the primary object, “the security of the County, or the establishing and carrying on a Commerce with the Indians residing in or resorting to the said Islands or inhabiting the Coast of Labrador.” I do not know whether it is going to be said that on the selvedge of the sea there was a population of Indians squatting on the sea shore. Of course, there was nothing of the kind, and surely it is quite obvious that when these documents were drawn they were referring to a substantial area very little known, thought to be of no particular value, which was believed to be sufficiently defined by the use of this language.

Viscount FINLAY: At the same time I do not think that the exploration of these inlets was so much with regard to the extent of land conveyed as it was with regard to what the value of the fisheries would be.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think your Lordship is right. I only make the observation because, your Lordship appreciates, the case I have to meet is a case that there is only a narrow selvedge which does not go in round the inlet, but which simply cuts across the mouth of it.

Viscount FINLAY: I do not suppose the case on the other side has been limited to that point.

Sir JOHN SLMON: On the contrary, that is their maximum concession; they say they have been, if possible, too generous to the Colony of Newfoundland. Of course, we shall see.

(Adjourned for a short time.)

Sir JOHN SIMON: My Lord, if your Lordships would be good enough to turn for one moment to Map No. 7 in the Newfoundland Atlas you will see that the map provides the answer to a question which one of your Lordships was good enough to put to me earlier in the day. It is the map immediately preceding the one which you looked at for the purpose of noting that record of the Deep Inlet.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Not immediately preceding, is it?

Sir JOHN SIMON: It comes several times: your Lordship is quite right; as a matter of fact you looked at No. 9. No. 7 is a map of a few years earlier, which is to be found in several editions, made by a very distinguished geographer, who was Guillaume De l'Isle. He was by far


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