Confederation
1864-1949



The Labrador Boundary


Privy Council Documents


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Volume XII








25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.


p. 213

So they say: “As you do not like the idea of our enlisting a volunteer corps, we will suspend the measure.” I do not at present know—I do not know whether my friends do—whether the advice which may be supposed to have been sought from the Law Officers of the Crown was ever given, and, if so, what the advice was; of course these things are usually confidential. At any rate, there is a Petition on page 4121, which complains very bitterly of what the North West Company had been doing. I am not going to read it—it is very long—but might I ask your Lordships to pick out just two or three passages? On page 4122, line 21, you get an account of the beginning of the North West Company: “That in the Autumn of 1812 a number of Settlers sent by his Lordship”—that is Lord Selkirk, who, you will remember, got the grant some time earlier, in 1811, away up in the district now known as Selkirk—“that in the Autumn of 1812 a number of Settlers sent by his Lordship arrived and established themselves on the Banks of the Red River, and these were followed in the two succeeding years by many others who all settled on the adjoining lands. That the said Settlement was proceeding with every prospect of success when it was assailed first by the several manoeuvres, and afterwards by the open violence of certain partners, agents and dependents of a Canadian Association calling itself the North West Company of Fur Traders of Montreal.” They give an account of how that Association began, and so they say: “Here you have got all his rivalry going on.”
Then on the next page there is a complaint of the aggressions of the North West Company; and then on page 4142, at line 32, you get again the reassertion of the height of land. “Wherefore your Petitioners most humbly pray leave to refer to the said Memorials and documents and to exhibit other evidence in support of this their petition and to be heard by Counsel therein and that Your Majesty will be graciously pleased to declare that, by virtue of the said Letters Patent of His said Majesty King Charles the Second, your Petitioners are the sole and absolute Lords Proprietors of all Lands between the extreme heights from which any waters flow into the seas within Hudson's Streights and the said Seas, and that Your Majesty will be pleased to appoint Commissioners to run a line along the said Heights or will otherwise determine more precisely the said boundary.”
On the next page is a Memorial from the North West Company.
Now, my Lords, the matter, as far as I can see, was not ever settled. I am sure it was not settled by any Imperial Order. I do not see that the thing was carried any further. That is the contention, and it is well worth observation now that, when the thing does come before Parliamentary authorities to consider, in the year 1857, as your Lordships know, this view, which appears to have been the view expressed by Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Scarlett and others, is the view which is perfectly plainly indicated on the map; but so far as regards the North West Territory, as I told your Lordships earlier in the day, the trouble was abated, because in 1821 the Hudson's Bay Company came to terms with this North West Company and took them over. That, so far as I am aware, gives the account of what is

p. 214

relevant in respect of the history of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the end of it is—this is not perhaps very helpful to your Lordships—that without there ever having been a legal decision as to what the limits of the Hudson's Bay Company were inland, in 1870 the Hudson's Bay Company is bought out, its quasi-sovereign rights come to an end, it remained a most important trading organization to do whatever was necessary, Hudson's Bay Company became Canada. So that the whole thing flows together without there ever having been a quite explicit decision on the point.

Lord SUMNER: It was bought out without any specification.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes.

Lord SUMNER: What they had was transferred to Canada.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes; that is, after there had been this House of Commons inquiry, where it is quite plain what the boundary was believed to be. There has never been, unfortunately, from your Lordships' point of view, any actual decision about that. I think that makes it convenient to call attention now to the efforts which have been made quite recently by legislation in Canada, or in Quebec, to enlarge the boundaries from the Canadian side. Your Lordships already have in mind, of course, that nothing which the Dominion of Canada could do, nothing which the Legislative Assembly or Council of Quebec could do, will take away from Newfoundland anything that it has got—that is, of course, quite plain from the language of the Colonial Boundaries Act—but, as I have said all along, if the right view was that in this part of the world there was a No Man's Land, no doubt it is quite true to say that the Order in Council to which your Lordships have referred me more than once, which brings into Canada everything which is not Newfoundland, would mean that the No Man's Land passed to Canada.

Viscount FINLAY: Is there anything in the documents which hints at the existence of such a No Man's Land?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I find very little.

Viscount HALDANE: I think the expression “No Man's Land” is not a very good one; I mean that the British Crown owns the land which is not owned by anybody else, and, of course, the Order in Council would operate on the Crown's title.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Of course, it was a mere familiar expression. May I tell your Lordships what happened, and I think in the time which I imagine your Lordships are going to use to–day, I can call attention to the necessary pages. In 1886, sixteen years after Hudson's Bay Territory had been thrown into Canada, the Quebec Legislative Assembly

p. 215

passed a resolution urging that the Quebec boundaries should be extended. They had this particular ground for urging it; that for reasons which are really rather technical (I will go into them if necessary, I know what they are) the boundary of the Province of Ontario had, after the Hudson's Bay Territory fell in, carried up to James Bay, so that Ontario—your Lordship knows that story very well—

Viscount HALDANE: That was the 1884 Arbitration.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes. The result was, incidentally, that the boundary of Ontario went up to the Albany River and the shore of James Bay; so Ontario was carried up there. The Quebec Council and the Quebec Legislative Assembly in 1886 passed this Resolution urging that the Quebec boundary should be extended. They asked for a new boundary. Now here is the curious thing (I am sure they did not appreciate it at the time), they, in fact, asked for a new boundary in terms which involve a denial of the proposition that the Quebec of 1774 acquired, by the addition of Newfoundland mainland, a mere little strip. Your Lordships remember the contention against me is that once you come to 1774, with the Quebec Act, really it is in virtue of the boundary then traced down, west of the Mississippi up to the Hudson's Bay Territory, that you get this immense Quebec of 1774, and, except for the purpose of clearing away doubt, the addition of the words “And also so much of the coast as was annexed to Newfoundland” would not matter at all. Their case, therefore, is that since they only had from Newfoundland this very narrow strip, it followed that when in 1809 the arrangement was reversed, and Newfoundland got back what it had before. Newfoundland only got back the very narrow strip. Now, if that is the view, it follows that Quebec, from 1809 onwards, was an area which did include already, thenceforward and for ever, all the land which lay to the north–east of the smaller province of Quebec, bounded, it is true, by the Hudson's Bay boundary on one side, but on the other side extending, not, indeed, actually to the salt sea waves, but extending to within a mile of them; and yet—here is the curious thing—the Quebec Legislative Assembly so completely misunderstood the case which was going to be made for Quebec in the year 1926, that when they passed a resolution urging that their boundary should be extended, some of the things which they now want to throw into Quebec were some of the things which, according to this argument, were already there. The page is page 4005 of Volume VIII. I have not got the actual document of 1886 but it is recited in the document on page 4005 sufficiently for the purpose. The actual document on page 4005 is a document of some years later, and it is not a Quebec document, but a Dominion document; it is, indeed, a report to the Privy Council Committee of the Dominion in the year 1894, and it is in these terms (I think this page is very important) : “The Honourable the Commissioner of Crown Lands, in a Report dated the 21st of November instant (1894), sets forth: That the important question of the North and North–eastern Boundary of the Province of Quebec,

p. 216

although submitted on various occasions to the capital Federal Authorities at Ottawa, remains up to the present unsettled, notwithstanding the fact that the pretensions of the Province of Ontario for an analogous extension of territory have been recognised by the Parliament of Canada and the Imperial Parliament.” That refers to the fact that Ontario had got its boundary up to James Bay. “That as a matter of justice and right, the Province of Quebec is fully justified in persisting, as it does persist, in the views embodied in the resolutions of the Quebec Legislative Assembly of 1886 having reference thereto, copy of which has already been transmitted to his Excellency the Governor–General in Council, and in claiming, as it does claim for reasons similar or somewhat similar to those successfully urged by the Province of Ontario, for an extension to its boundaries, all the territory situate North of the height of land, as far as the Northerly limits held by the French Government at the time of the negotiations preliminary to the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, and more particularly the Territory defined in the aforesaid resolutions, as follows”—now this is the resolution of 1886 by the Quebec Legislative Assembly—“All the country bounded on the West by a prolongation of the present boundary line between Ontario and Quebec to the South shore of James Bay, and by the shore line of this Bay as far as the mouth of East Main River, on the North by the right bank of East Main River from its mouth to its source, thence by a line drawn to the Northernmost waters of the Grand River Esquimeaux, Ashuanipi or Hamilton, and by the left bank of this river to its mouth in Rigolet Bay (Hamilton's Inlet) on the East and North–East”—I shall have to trouble your Lordships to trace this on a contemporaneous map in a moment—“on the East and North–East”—I call particular attention to these words—”by the Meridian of the Eastern–most point of the source of the River St. Paul or Little Esquimeaux, and again on the East by this same river to the 52nd degree of North Latitude, following this parallel to its intersection by the Meridian of Anse au Blanc Sablon, the present recognised Eastern boundary of this Province.” Now, it will take a little time just to trace that out, but you will find it involves this assertion: it involves the assertion that that parallel, the 52nd parallel of latitude, which your Lordships will remember is the top of the pink in my map, was in 1886 the boundary of the Province of Quebec. Now, if that is so, it follows that it is not true that the Coast of Labrador, which Newfoundland first had, then gave up, and then got again, was a mere narrow strip: but it follows, as your Lordships have already been disposed to infer from the Statute of 1825, that the Coast of Labrador was a thing so deep and thick that the pink oblong only cut out a portion of it, and what was behind the pink oblong, and further away from the sea, was still Newfoundland, and that is the very view which the Legislative Council of Quebec themselves put forward in 1886.

(Adjourned till to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.)

[1927lab]




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