The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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22 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

22 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon

Mr. Macmillan.

Sir John Simon.

22 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon

22 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon

22 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon

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Sir JOHN SIMON: My Lords, your Lordships were just looking in Volume 3 at page 1406, the record of the Civil Court for the Coast of Labrador, showing that this dispute about the salmon fishery at or near the mouth of Kinnamon Brook was made the subject of process before that Court. On the opposite page, page 1407, you will find the proclamation of Governor Cochrane—it is still Governor Cochrane—for the next year, 1826, in which he appoints various places at which Courts are to be held. Again you will find at line 24, “Indian Harbour, Indian Island, Rigolet, or Ivucktoke otherwise Gross Water, Mullins Cove, Tub Harbour,” and various other places. They are, my Lords, all of them, places that can be reached by water. Gross Water is the name that is given to the interior part of Hamilton Inlet, I mean it is another instance of the situation upon which my Lord Sumner made an observation just now, that is to say, it would be valuable to me, and is valuable to me, as showing the unchallenged jurisdiction right back to the head of Hamilton Inlet, but it does not carry me into the interior country. Again you get “Place or places,” and this time, my Lord, it is perhaps observable that at line 32 it says “Ports or places,” not “Parts or places.” I am not sure how that is. Then on page 1409 you get a rather different kind of document; this is a document recording the work of the Court of General Sessions in Labrador. Apparently at this time, in 1827, one at any rate of the gentlemen, I suppose the Chairman of the Court, was Mr. George Simms. He is making a report which includes this statement: “Timber of very large dimensions is said to abound at the head of Gross Water, on the Kinnamish and North West Rivers.” I daresay your Lordships observe the North West River is one of the great rivers that run into the head of Hamilton Inlet. “Mast pieces from 18 to 26 inches at the partners and crooked ships timber, spruce and birch, sufficiently large to build ships of four hundred tons burthen. Mr. Bird's establishment intend building two large schooners at Kinnamish the ensuing winter. The following vessels are employed in the cod fishery at the different ports in Esquimaux Bay,” and then it gives a series of details, it seems to me a mere report. I am not attempting to go through every one of these documents at all exhaustively, especially as I want to complete my chronological sketch to–day. At page 1412 you get a record of this Court of Civil Jurisdiction showing that the Court had a view at Kinnamon Brook. “On Tuesday evening the 19th July, arrived at Rigolet, on the 20th July left Rigolet for Kinnamish. Tuesday 22nd reached Kinnamish where the Court viewed the Salmon Brook in dispute between J. O. Brunet § Co. vs. J. Bird, Thursday the 24th July arrived at North West Brook.” It is a kind of account of the Court's peregrination. On page 1414 that carries the matter slightly further; the last paragraph on that page shows that the Court was open—it was prepared

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to sit at the places there named, but there was no business apparently to be done. It was like opening the Commission of Assize and finding there were no prisoners to be tried. But the Court was prepared to sit at Kinnamarsh, which I think your Lordships take as the same place as one or other of those two. There is no doubt at all there has been a constant claim to exercise jurisdiction quite unchallenged for very many years, at any rate up in that region. Those instances are probably sufficient for this present purpose. What was found was that there was so little business for such a Court to do that, on page 1415, Governor Sir Thomas Cochrane is advising the Home Government, and he is saying, in effect, that he doubts whether the continuance of a branch of the Supreme Court in Labrador is needed; and the result was that in 1834 the Newfoundland Legislature abolished the High Court of Labrador, and that is the end of this first period. Then for a considerable time they relied on subordinate judicial officers, Justices of the Peace and the like. The actual form of the abolition is just a little curious, because what really happened was that it was an Imperial Act of Parliament that established the Court of Labrador, and, therefore, it would have been, perhaps, natural, at any rate at that stage in Dominion development, to take the view that only an Imperial Act of Parliament could abolish it. What happened was that there was an Imperial Act of Parliament passed which expressly delegated to the Newfoundland Legislature authority to deal with that matter if it liked; and your Lordships will find that in 1834 the Newfoundland Legislature, under the powers of an Imperial Act of 1823, abolished the Court of Labrador by repealing the Imperial Statute. Then, my Lords, in the interval between the end of my first period and the beginning of my second, between 1834 and 1863, such administration of justice as was called for was provided 1n subordinate judicial authority, Justices of the Peace and the like.

Viscount HALDANE: By surrogates?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Not formally surrogates, but Justices of the Peace.

Mr. MACMILLAN: I think that is not right, because on page 1424 you will see it says, “The whole Coast of Labrador is now left destitute of a local civil jurisdiction.”

Sir JOHN SIMON: It looks as though it really was for the time being one of those ideal countries where no punishments were needed.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: It is only civil jurisdiction.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think, independently, in the book I could show there was, as a matter of fact, the exercise of sonie jurisdiction. It does not matter very much, because when I come on to the beginning of my second period (I gave your Lordships, I think, 1863 as the be–

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ginning of my second period in 1863, as you will see if you turn on to page 1436 (there are various intermediate documents showing that there were Constables being appointed, and no doubt there was criminal jurisdiction) you get a Newfoundland Act, and it is worth while, perhaps, just to call attention to the title of it. The title of it contains an expression which, I am told by those who are instructing me from Newfoundland, is a very common expression in Newfoundland; it is “the Labrador.” Of course, I cannot enlarge the proper construction of “all the coasts of Labrador” by substituting any other phrase, but this is a very common phrase. It is an Act “to provide for collection of revenue and better administration of justice at the Labrador.” “Whereas it is expedient to provide for the collection of the Revenue and for the better administration of Justice at the Labrador: Be it therefore enacted by the Governor, Legislative Council and Assembly, in Legislative Session convened as follows: I. It shall be lawful for the Governor, by Letters Patent under the Great Seal of the Island of Newfoundland, to institute a Court of Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction at the Labrador; and such Court shall be a Court of Record, and shall be presided over by one Judge, to be appointed by the Governor in Council and shall, over all such parts of the Labrador as be within the Government of Newfoundland, have jurisdiction, power and authority to hear and finally determine all Criminal Prosecutions for Assaults and Batteries, and for Larcenies without force to the person, committed within the limits aforesaid; and all Actions and Suits of a Civil nature” not exceeding, I think, £100. Then in Clause 4 there was to be an appeal from this Court to the Supreme Court in the Island, and in Clause 7 there was statutory authority by which any sentenced prisoner might be confined in any place of security within the limits aforesaid, that means on the Labrador, which the Judge may direct, or may be conveyed to any gaol in Newfoundland. Then in Clause 9, dealing with another subject matter, “It shall be lawful for the Governor in Council to appoint the said Judge or some other competent person to be Superintendent of the fisheries on the coast of Newfoundland and the Labrador, and to appoint the same or other competent person to be a collector of revenue on the Labrador.” I may tell your Lordships that I do not myself attach very much importance, one way or the other, to the material in these volumes on the subject of revenue collection (there is a good deal of material), and for this very simple reason: that, so far as I can see, the nature of the revenue collected was import duties; I should not have expected therefore, that very much light could be thrown on the question of the depth of the country inland by showing that there was an exercise of collection of that sort of revenue; if they had had an income tax it would have been another matter. There is a little material of another sort, but most of it is of that kind. That being the Statute, on page 1439 there was a Statute of the same year (the next chapter, it is 26 Vict. C. 3) providing this, “That the circuit Courts of Newfoundland shall have power to hear and determine all crimes and offences, informations, suits, and actions committed occurring or arising, on all such parts of the coast of Labrador as are within the Government of

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Newfoundland,” that is apparently another jurisdiction which would make it easy to deal with Labrador cases in the circuit Courts. I do not think this carries it very much further. Then on the next page, page 1440, you get the actual institution, under the Statutes to which I have just referred, of the Labrador Court. You will observe on page 1440 that the Governor at that time was Sir Alexander Bannerman. He was Governor from 1857 to 1864, and he proceeds to set up the Court to be presided over by one Judge to be appointed from time to time, such Court to be a Court of Record, and so on “And shall be held for such terms and at such times and in such places at the Labrador as the Judge thereof for the time being may from time to time determine.” Then there follow in the book (I can save your Lordships' time, and I think even save your Lordships' eyes, by putting it in this way) from page 1443, running on to 1460 or thereabouts, the Reports which were made of the proceedings of that Court, or extracts from them, a Court which was presided over at first by Judge Sweetland and subsequently by his successor Judge Pinsent. Those were the two, first Judge Sweetland and then Judge Pinsent. Perhaps your Lordships would just turn to page 1453, which shows pretty clearly that, at any rate, the salmon fishery was quite as much within the area as any cod fishery: “The salmon fishery was, this year, pretty good in Sandwich Bay and Hamilton Inlet, which are the principal places for what may he called the embayed fishery”; fishery, that is, taking place inside Hamilton Inlet. Then over the page “On the open coast the salmon fishery was not so successful”; apparently in this part of the world it is when you go into the inlets or the mouths of the rivers that you get salmon. Then there is an interesting reference to Mr. Smith: “The Hudson Bay Company have establishments in Hamilton Inlet, N.W. River and Rigoulette,” just as they have, your Lordships know, in Winnipeg and other places. “Here we met Mr. Smith,” that is Lord Strathcona, “the Deputy Governor of the Company and chief Manager of their business in this quarter; he arrived from Canada in the steamer ‘Labrador,’ a fine new vessel belonging to the concern. This Company received most of the salmon in the neighbourhood of their establishments, and cut them up and preserved them in small tin canisters for exportation to England and other countries.” If ever anybody is concerned to write a treatise on the history of salmon canning, I suppose this will take a place of honour in the first chapter. It is hardly worth while nowadays for a Judge on circuit in the North of America, I think, to report elaborately that someone has invented the ingenious plan of putting salmon into tins.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: That shows they had an establishment in Hamilton Bay.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, they had trading establishments. They are great people for having controversies about taxes, like all good business men are. A little lower on the same page there is a very good account of what is happening. He says, “The resident population of

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Labrador (as distinguished from the people who go there on the fishery in the summer only) from Blanc Sablon, in the Straits of Belle Isle to Indian Harbor Esquimaux Bay, which in the year 1864 was estimated by Judge Sweetland at 2026, may be considered as rather increased since that time. It is difficult for a transient visitor to ascertain, reliably, even the probable number of resident inhabitants, scattered as they are in so many places along this extensive coast; to take personally a census is impracticable. The residents are principally of English origin, including some from Newfoundland, but in Esquimaux Bay, Hamilton Inlet and that neighbourhood, there are several families of Esquimaux and half–breeds, the latter are descendants of European fathers and Esquimaux mothers; these people are occupied chiefly in the salmon fishery in summer and in furring during the winter.” No doubt the business of furring and trapping may not call for a very elaborate judicial organisation or administration, but there cannot be a doubt, I think, that the Newfoundland Government conceived that the Labrador jurisdiction they were exercising was in no sense limited to the deep–sea cod fishery. He gives an interesting account of these people. He says, “They are very docile and well–behaved, and, in their simple way, fond of learning; most of them can read, and some can write—taught by their fathers and by each other.”

Viscount HALDANE: What is the reference to furring?

Sir JOHN SIMON: The one I was giving is at page 1454, line 25. If your Lordship is kind enough to make a note, would you mind adding to it also what is a more important reference on the furring point, page 1448, at the top of the page. There are others, but this is rather an interesting one. I will take 1448 now, if your Lordship would not mind turning back. This is in the Report of the earlier year, but it is the same thing. “In Sandwich and Esquimaux Bays, the inhabitants disperse themselves for the sake of furring in the winter,” that means, of course, they go up into the woods, “and catching salmon in the summer. Very little can be done in the way of an established school.” Then he goes on giving a lot of details as to the relief of a certain number of destitute people and so on, and some account about the churches that exist there; there are quite a number; the Moravians have an important mission, and other religious denominations have an establishment there. “The season was wet and cold, so much so that the usual crop of ‘greens’ could not be obtained; potatoes on the coast did not come to perfection. At the N.W. River at the head of Esquimaux Bay they produce green peas, new potatoes and radishes of immense growth; fresh butter,” and so on. It is all very primitive, and is, of course, very unimportant on the point of population, but there is nothing whatever, I make bold to say, in these documents of the class I am dealing with now, which would suggest that the Newfoundland jurisdiction is a jurisdiction which can be in any way limited,


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