The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume II

[10 June,

Page 347
sponsored by
Violet Moores,
Mount Pearl

Page 348
sponsored by
Sandi & Ken Tulk,
Manuels, NL

p. 347                                           C

No. 71.


Department of the Interior,   
Secretary's Branch, Ottawa, 10th June, 1889.  

    Dear Mr. Burgess,—With reference to the memorandum of Sir John Macdonald hereunder (10th May, 1889) and the despatch of the secretary of state for the colonies (9th April, 1889), I find the jurisdiction of Newfoundland in Labrador more fully defined in the "Imperial Letters Patent" (28th March, 1876) making permanent provision for the office of governor of Newfoundland and its dependencies, than it is in sec. 9 of chapter 59 of the Act 6, George IV, 1825, which bears more particularly on the eastern boundary of Lower Canada.
    In these "Letter Patent" the boundary is described as follows:—

    "All the coast of Labrador from the entrance of Hudson's strait to a line to be drawn due north and south from Anse Sablon on the said coast to the 52nd degree of north latitude, and all the islands adjacent to that part of the said coast of Labrador."

    It will be observed that Newfoundland's jurisdiction is clearly enough defined as being on the coast between Anse Sablon bay (in the straits of Belle isle) and the entrance to Hudson's strait; but no description whatever is given of the boundary on the mainland, except between Anse Sablon and the 52nd parallel of latitude.
    On the sketch map which I have prepared to accompany this memorandum, taken from the maps of British North America, by Arrowsmith, of London, and W. & A. K. Johnston, of Edinburgh, it will be seen that the custom has been to mark the boundary of Labrador, southerly, from cape Chudleigh (at the ocean entrance to Hudson's strait, along the height of land) to the undefined northern boundary of Lower Canada (now Quebec), thence easterly and south along the said northern boundary of Lower Canada to Anse Sablon. It does not appear that this line was intended by the geographers to represent the boundary of the territory in Labrador, under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland, but most probably the dividing line between Labrador and what was supposed to be Hudson's Bay Company's territory. The name "Labrador" or "Peninsula of Labrador," in its full geographical application, has been generally understood to cover the whole region between the Atlantic ocean and the east coast of Hudson's bay, as evidenced by the earliest maps of the country.

p. 348

    On the maps of the Dominion, published from time to time by this department, the same system of drawing tlie Labrador line has been followed as on the British maps, but we have invariably taken the precaution to show it in a dotted line, with the words supposed or undefined applied to it.
    It does not appear that it was contemplated by the imperial government that the colony of Newfoundland should possess any such large extent of territory on the mainland as is represented by the yellow tint on sketch map (herewith), the Labrador of modern maps. My impression is, that nothing more was intended than a comparatively narrow strip along the coast (coloured pink), which would include the fishing stations, missions, Hudson's Bay Company's posts, etc., and such a strip, probably, is all that is included in imperial instructions to the governor of Newfoundland, as indicated in his despatch to the colonial secretary, 27th February, 1889. He writes: "The frontier laid down by the Dominion government  *  *  *  does not correspond  *  *  *  with that laid down in my instructions, thus leaving a large tract between the two lines which is under no one."
    The so-called neutral tract referred to here, I have no doubt, is that coloured yellow on the sketch map, and which is, beyond question, a part of the "territorial transfer" made to Canada by the imperial government in 1880.
    Mr. Justice Pinsent, in his letter to the governor of Newfoundland of the 15th February, 1889, says: "The former (Canada) has defined its line in official maps.  *  *  *  The difficulty lies in the imperfect and insufficient description of that part of Labrador annexed to this colony."
    It is hardly necessary to remark that Canada has not defined any line between the two colonies, either on official maps or otherwise, and, so far as I am aware, the question is now placed before the Dominion government by the colonial secretary for the first time.
    At present the best maps of the interior of Labrador (as might be expected) are very inaccurate and misleading in their character, being largely made up from the crude sketches of Hudson's Bay Company's officers, supplemented by Indian reports. A map is now, however, being prepared in this department, under my own supervision, which will be ready for the printer in a few weeks, and which will contain the latest and most reliable information in relation to the geography of the Labrador region.

Respectfully submitted,                             

J. JOHNSTON, Geographer.    

[Map follows as 348A. [sic]



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