The Labrador Boundary

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29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.

29 Oct., 1926.

Viscount Haldane.

Mr. Macmillan.

Viscount Haldane.

Mr. Macmillan.

Sir John Simon.

29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.

29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.

29 Oct., 1926.

Viscount Haldane.

Mr. Macmillan.

Viscount Finlay.

Mr. Macmillan.

p. 358

Viscount HALDANE : He must have been there for a very long time. Here is a Commission of 1750.

Mr. MACMILLAN : That, my Lord, is a Commission to William Francis Drake, and not to Captain Graves. That is another Governor, a predecessor, thirteen years before. The general term of office was about three years if I remember aright. It is always, I think, helpful if one indicates just at once what one's point is upon the documents in order if possible to draw attention to what the significance is. In our submission the significance to which I drew attention just now is the concentration in the minds of those people upon a fishery problem, a method of dealing with it, and they selected as a method of dealing with it the invocation of the Governor of Newfoundland, and to that Governor they confided certain new powers and duties with the intention of thereby effectuating the Treaty clauses relating to fisheries. It is for the purpose of measuring the territory which was confided to this Governor under the name of “ Coasts ” that I think the inception of the whole matter becomes of so much importance, it is for that purpose and it is in aid of that problem, I adduce this historical investigation.
Sir John Simon is good enough to give me a list of the Newfoundland Governors and Captain Drake, whose Commission my Lord has just been looking at was 1750 ; then there intervened four gentlemen, four captains intervened, and then in 1761 comes Captain Graves. Then his Commission had to be altered, it was taken in hand, you can see the very tiring being done, you can see his Commission being put on the Table, and they are saying : What alterations have we to make, and the draftsman is at work. This was the result. Here we are at the very root of the whole matter, what was it that was then done ? The rival contentions, my Lord, emerge almost at once. My learned friend, Sir John Simon, says there was thereby confided to the Governor of Newfoundland a territory extending to what is now called the height of land far into the interior, and he thereupon became Governor in addition to Newfoundland of an area some two or three times in amount including this great territory which was an ascertained or an ascertainable territory confided to his administration and Government then and there, before any of the other administrative areas on the mainland were carved out at all.
My submission is, that that is most unlikely. The real intention of the whole matter is : What plan is the best plan for carrying out the Treaty, what plan is the best plan for regulating these fisheries, what plan shall we adopt ? The plan adopted was to put the coasts of Labrador under the jurisdiction of an existing functionary out there selected for the purpose because of his special fitness and proximity to the place, and what was confided to him was a coastal jurisdiction the precise ambit of which is measured by the purpose for which it was conferred.

Viscount HALDANLE :There were two things added later ; it was to protect the Moravians ?


p. 359

Viscount HALDANE : The Moravians would naturally be upon the coast, obviously it would be quite impossible to prevent the Moravians trying to deal with the Esquimaux further in.

Mr. MACMILLAN : There is a most interesting thing in this case of which your Lordship has heard nothing about at all—that is, the whole question of the ethnographic distribution of population in this area. I shall have to come to that ; it is a most interesting chapter ; it is closely cognate to the Moravians. I propose to give your Lordships chapter and verse for all that a little later on, because there is a most interesting chapter of the case upon that which will require to be really opened new for the first time.
You see now the plan that was adopted to effectuate the Treaty of Paris in this matter of the fisheries and the plan adopted was to extend the Governor of Newfoundland's ambit to include the coasts of Labrador. The inference I therefore take from that at once is just this, that was not intended to make him administrator of a vast territory where furring and other native industries of that sort were carried on, and to make him Governor over the Red Indians in the Interior right up to the height of land, that was far beyond anything which can have been in contemplation at that time.

Viscount HALDANE : Just remind us, Mr. Macmillan, of the nature of the title of the Crown to the Island of Newfoundland. It dates back to when ?

Mr. MACMILLAN : It is a very early title, I suppose it was a title by discovery originally. My learned friend is good enough to tell me 1497.

Viscount HALDANE : Then it was an island which was annexed just as any discovered island is.

Mr. MACMILLAN : Yes, The French were on it for part of the time, you find traces of that in the references to Placentia.

Viscount HALDANE : How did the French surrender it ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : Any rights they had they surrendered by Treaty.

Viscount HALDANE : Which Treaty was that ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : The Treaty of Utrecht. The French were more particularly in the Southern part of the island. Placentia was in the South, it is a very big place. Under the Treaty of Utrecht you will find one of the terms was an acknowledgment of the French couched in the language of cession that they no longer had anything to do with Newfoundland.
3 C

p. 360

Viscount HALDANE : They gave up their territorial right in Newfoundland and retained fishery rights.

Mr. MACMILLAN : Yes. May I suggest, if your Lordship is interested in this subject, we have in Volume IV, at page 1667, and the following pages, a sketch of the history of Newfoundland up to 1809. I cannot claim authority for that, it professes to be based on the documents hereinafter[sic] printed and is only therefore of value in so far as it is vouched by the documents printed, but it is like many of the other papers in these Volumes, in the nature of an essay. There are quite a number of interesting essays contributed on both sides which are of exceedingly interesting reading. This is our essay.

Sir JOHN SIMON : It has, in my view, a slightly tendentious quality.

Mr. MACMILLAN : I should not be surprised if it had. I noticed your speech had a very tendentious character.

Viscount FINLAY : Where does it come from ?

Mr. MACMILLAN : It has come from our office, it has been compiled for us by one of the officials. One of the officials of the Government at Ottawa compiled this ; be it tendentious or not, it is at least an attempt to state the history and much of it, I think, can scarcely be regarded as tendentious.

Viscount HALDANE : It is a summary of other documents.

Mr. MACMILLAN : It professes to be that. Pray do not for a moment think I am asking any authority for it beyond this, that it is an attempt by a person conversant with the documents to state the history ; therefore, if your Lordships want the history of Newfoundland, with that caution, that it emanates from us, you will find it there.

Viscount HALDANE : Does this tell us what the size of Newfoundland was ?

Mr. MACMILLAN : Between 40,000 and 50,000 squares miles.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Round about 50,000.

Mr. MACMILLAN : I had noted this area, if added to Newfoundland, would be about two or three times the existing size of the Island.

Sir JOHN SIMON : It is over twice, but not as much as three times.

Viscount HALDANE : You mean Labrador.

p. 361

Mr. MACMILLAN : The Labrador area claimed on behalf of Newfoundland was about 110,000 square miles, therefore that would be about twice or thrice.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Rather over twice.

Mr. MACMILLAN : It may be appropriate at this stage just to look a little at the definition of the new limits as you find them in the Commission at page 149. I may here again forecast a little of what will be my ultimate position. It is quite manifest that the controversy in this case turns largely upon the ambit of this word “ coast ” or “ coasts.” The first thing one notices is that those two words are used indifferently. It is striking that even in this Commission, within four lines, one finds “ coasts ” and “ coast ” apparently used as signifying the same thing. I do not know that much comfort can be derived by me in that variation in terminology. Possibly the word “ coasts ” rather suggests a maritime seaboard, but I do not think a great deal can be made of that. Still, for what it is worth, the “ Coasts of Labrador ” suggest, I submit, a maritime seaboard ; they have a maritime flavour about them, more pronounceable perhaps than the expression “ Coast of Labrador.” We do not talk of the “ Gold Coasts,” if you take an example given against me, or the “ Guinea Coast,” it is the “ Gold Coast,” and the “ Guinea Coast,” the “ Cote d'azur” and the “ Cote d'or ” and so on. I do not think there is very much in that.

Viscount FINLAY : It strikes me that “ coast ” has rather more of a maritime flavour.

Mr. MACMILLAN : It is a matter of impression. Is not the truth of it this, when one comes down to the realities of it, that the word “ coast ” is one of those words of ambiguous import, of which there are many in these matters, and you can find examples throughout these books of the use of the word “ coast ” in the sense I would like it, and quite a large number of examples in the sense in which Sir John Simon would like it. I am trying, my Lord, to poise it as fairly as I can. The word is one of those words of ambiguous use, and, therefore, it is one of those words whose content must be found in its context ; that it is a word apt to describe the area which I maintain it did describe, cannot be refuted. On the other hand, that it can be read to include a relatively large area of land, not necessarily even maritime, is, I humbly submit, quite true. Your Lordships will not hear from me any argument to the contrary. Our submission is that the word being susceptible of more than one meaning, you must derive its content in this case from its context, the context not merely of the documents in which it occurs, but also the surrounding circumstances, and in this case our humble submission will be that you get a remarkably good indication of the way in which that word was used in this case from the purpose of the Commission and from the surrounding circumstances.
3 C 2

p. 362

Viscount HALDANE : You will have to tell us a little about that one–mile line ; I take it that is a mere suggestion, and I presume you are going to tell us about the Hamilton Inlet ?

Mr. MACMILLAN : I am afraid I have many things to tell your Lordships about. I regret that they should be so numerous, but I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to arrange the matter in a convenient form, I rather think they will come in their place. The difficulty is here so often you get a side light from another chapter of the case upon the one one is handling at the moment, one cannot be entirely logical, and I have a method which may commend itself to your Lordships as we proceed. I am afraid I am harping too much on this matter, but I cannot over–estimate its importance, because it seems to me we are at the very heart of the problem, we have a certain formula used, and your Lordships are concerned to examine that formula in all its minuteness, to see what is the true meaning and intent of this phraseology which is used. What did those who used that language have in mind ; what was the object they sought to achieve ; what were the circumstances in which they sat down to the table to alter the Commission of Graves ? It was this which I was so anxious to have brought prominently before you, my Lords, in order that you may approach it with an air of reality, and not merely with an air of a draughtsman who was carrying out instructions.

Viscount FINLAY : Does it come to this, that whatever was not comprised within your meaning of the word “ coast ” would not be British territory ?

Mr. MACMILLAN : No, my Lord, far from that, it is Indian territory it is the Crown reservation ; that I hope to make very clear.

Viscount FINLAY : It is vested in the Crown ?


Viscount FINLAY : They were holding it in trust for the Indians. That is your position.

Mr. MACMILLAN : Yes, until 1774, when the Boundaries of Quebec were extended so as to embrace the whole of Labrador up to the Southern boundary of Hudson's Bay, whatever that means, but there was an extension made in 1774. One of the points in issue is what exactly that extension achieved. Your Lordships will see there is a period from 1763 to 1744 which I have to account for. That this was all British territory, my Lord, after 1763 there is no question at all ; therefore it was a question as I put it, I am afraid more than once, of this : Being confronted with all the problems this area presented, such as problems of administration, how were they to be dealt with, what was the plan of administration which was to be adopted ? As I say, the significant thing is that they addressed


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