The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume II

[11 Jan.,

Page 354
sponsored by
Sandi & Ken Tulk,
Manuels, NL

p. 354                                           C

No. 79.

(Enclosure in No. 77.)


19 Dawlish Road, Teignmouth, Devon,
11th January, 1890.            

    SIR,—I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 9th inst., with the enclosures.
    I would take leave to observe upon them that it appears to me the point of difficulty remains untouched or rather unremoved by the report of the committee of the privy council of Canada and of the geographer of the department of the interior.
    This, I submit, is made manifest by the fact that the delineation of the western boundary line of the strip of coast coloured pink on the map of Labrador is the merely fanciful suggestion of the geographer and finds no sanction from authority.
    It appears to me that the presumptions are all in favour of the entire yellow as well as pink part being the dependency of Newfoundland, and for the following reasons: the name Labrador covered, as is admitted, in its full geographical application, the whole region between the Atlantic ocean and the east coast of Hudson bay.
    In 1763 so much of that territory as extends from the river St. John to Hudson strait was attached to Newfoundland.
    In 1774 this was transferred to Quebec. In 1809 it was re-annexed to Newfoundland, under chapter 27, George III.
    The act of Geo. 4, cap. 59, sec. 9 again made a change and reduced the extent of Labrador territory held by Newfoundland, giving to Quebec so much of it as "lies westward of a line to be drawn due north and south from the harbour. of Anse Sablon so far as the 52nd degree of north latitude."
    It seems to me at this point to be clear that Quebec acquired by virtue of the statute only that part of Labrador which lies west of the point drawn from Anse Sablon to the 52nd parallel, which would be:—
    (1) Either so much of the territory as lies south of a line drawn from that point to the river St. John or (2) so much, looking at certain historical and geographical facts, as lies south of the watershed marked on the map as the northern boundary of the province of Quebec.
    Probably as a matter of legal construction of the language employed, the first of these positions would be favoured.

p. 355

    The effect of this is that Newfoundland is left by statute that which was not by the subsequent enactment taken away and given to Quebec, viz.: from that point on the river St. John where it meets the Quebec boundary north to Hudson strait.
    If this last were intended to be a straight line it would be sufficiently definite, but would have the effect of leaving out an angular piece of the yellow tract from the jurisdiction of Newfoundland.
    If the watershed on this boundary be again adopted it would correspond with that given in the sketch map as that generally recognised.
    It would be a matter of little consequence which of these plans was adopted, that of parallels and straight line or of boundaries regulated by the watershed. The latter is that which, if not "officially defined by Canada," has been always accepted by it and represented in its maps by a dotted line marked "supposed boundary line."
    It appears to be unquestionable that the statutory rights of Newfoundland are to be found in one or other of these positions, and the principal doubt or difficulty existing in the case has arisen from the terms of the commission and instructions to the governor of Newfoundland, which taken literally provide for a line that, drawn from Hudson strait to the 52nd parallel, would pass partly through the ocean, but which, if read to intend the line of coast, still leaves the question to the exercise of ingenuity similar to that expended by the geographer of the Dominion upon the "sketch map."
    In my correspondence with the governors of Newfoundland I have pointed out the difficulties which are interposed in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the supreme court of the colony and the administration of justice generally, and I would in conclusion most respectfully suggest that these maybe overcome by a change of instructions, based, if necessary, upon a determination of the judicial committee of the privy council or of the law authorities of the crown upon the only point which seems to be left for determination, viz., whether the principle of straight lines or of watershed is in the interior to regulate the boundaries between the Labrador of Canada and that of Newfoundland.

I have, etc.,                                  


    P.S.—If the colonial office could conveniently furnish me with copies of the enclosures and sketch map now returned I should be glad to have them.



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