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DISCUSSION OF THE LABRADOR BOUNDARY QUESTION AT THE HALIFAX CONFERENCE, 1892, BETWEEN DELEGATES REPRESENTING THE GOVERNMENTS OF CANADA AND NEWFOUNDLAND.
REPORT OF A COMMITTEE OF THE HONOURABLE THE PRIVY COUNCIL,
APPROVED BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR GENERAL IN COUNCIL, ON THE 9TH DECEMBER, 1892.
The Committee of the Privy Council, on the recommendation of Sir John Thompson, K.C.M.G., submit the accompanying copy of the proceedings of the Conference recently held at Halifax between delegates from the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland, for Your Excellency's information.
(Signed) JOHN J. McGEE,
Clerk of the Privy Council.
To His Excellency the Governor General in Council:
Pursuant to arrangement, delegates representing the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland respectively, met in the Legislative Council Chamber at Halifax on the 9th November, 1892, at 11 o'clock.
There were present, the Honourable Mackenzie Bowell, Honourable J. A. Chapleau and Honourable Sir John Thompson, K.C.M.G., representing the Government of Canada, and the Honourable Sir William Whiteway, K.C.M.G., Honourable A. W. Harvey and Honourable Robert Bond, representing the Government of Newfoundland.
The delegates thereupon filed their credentials (see Appendices 1, 2, 3, and 4).
The Conference was organized by the selection of Sir William Whiteway as chairman, and Mr. Douglas Stewart, of the Department of Justice, Ottawa, as secretary.
It was agreed that the following subjects should be considered by the Conference: —
(1). The convention between Newfoundland and the United States, known as the Bond-Blaine convention.
(2). The Bait Question.
(3). The imposition of a tariff on Newfoundland fish by the Canadian Government, and the tariff of Newfoundland on Canadian products.
(4). The boundary between Canadian Labrador and Newfoundland, and collection of duties at Labrador.
(5). The status of Newfoundland fishermen on the coast of Canadian Labrador, and the status of Canadian fishermen on the coast of Newfoundland.
(6). The fees collected from United States vessels under the modus vivendi, for licences in 1888, and succeeding years.
It was understood that the conclusions which might be arrived at by the Conference should be ad referendum to the respective Governments.
It was agreed that the sessions of the Conference should begin at 10 o'clock a.m. and 3 o'clock p.m. each day until the Conference should conclude.
The question of the Labrador boundary was first considered.
Mr. Bowell explained that the present grievance was one more particularly relating to Customs exactions than one in connection with location of the boundary. While Minister of Customs his attention had been called to the report of Lieut. Gordon, R.N., in which it was stated that traders who supplied the coast of Labrador, and who usually made Rigoulette their first port of call, were required by the Newfoundland Customs officials to make entry there, and pay duty on the full cargo, although a portion of the cargo was intended for consumption on Canadian territory. This system was said to apply more particularly to supplies for the Labrador coast in the vicinity of Ungava Bay.
Sir William Whiteway said that it seemed to him that the Newfoundland Customs officials would only exact duty upon such goods as might be reported for entry at the port in Newfoundland territory to which they might be consigned — that this was more of a matter between the traders or importers and the Customs officials, than one for the consideration of the respective Governments. He pointed out that the Canadian Government had full power to exact Customs duties on all goods entering their territory at Ungava Bay or elsewhere, even though they had previously paid duty at Rigoulette, and that the Customs officer at Rigoulette had no instructions to exact duties on goods other than those entered for consumption in Newfoundland territory.
Mr. Harvey stated that he had never heard of the grievance before, and
that he was quite sure that the Customs officer on the coast of Labrador had no authority to act in the manner which had been alleged.
Mr. Bond repudiated any desire on the part of the Newfoundland Government to permit such a practice.
Mr. Bowell replied that while it was satisfactory to learn that no instructions had been given by the Newfoundland Government to its officers to collect Customs duties upon goods, the ultimate destiny of which was for consumption in Canada, it was important to know whether such duties had been collected and passed to the credit of the Newfoundland revenue. It would be seen by reference to the reports of Lieut. Gordon, of 1884 and 1886, that this had been done, whether through error on the part of Newfoundland Customs officials or not, was not known. In confirmation of what he had said he might mention the fact that Mr. Parmalee, Commissioner of Customs of Canada, had, during the past summer, visited some of the Hudson Bay posts, on the shores of James' Bay, and had, on inquiry, learned from Hudson's Bay offices, that duties had been paid by the company to Newfoundland officers upon goods destined to that portion of the Dominion on the shores of Ungava Bay, from which place they were distributed for trading purposes in the interior of that portion of Canada. If this were the case, and there did not seem to be any doubt of it, the practice should not be continued, whatever might be done in relation to such moneys as had been so collected in the past. He was scarcely prepared to accept the proposition laid down by Sir William Whiteway, that this was more of a matter between the "traders or importers and the Customs officials than for the consideration of the respective Governments." If duties had been improperly collected by Customs officials of either Government, upon goods which were for consumption in the territory of another country, it was clearly a question of consideration for those Governments interested, and not for the trader or official. Such powers could never be recognized as existing in an officer of any Government.
Mr. Chapleau added that the Hudson's Bay officers had informed Mr. Parmalee that the Newfoundland Customs officers had collected duties at Rigoulette upon goods which were known to be for consumption in Canadian territory in the neighbourhood of Ungava Bay.
The question was allowed to stand over, pending further information as to the actual practice in the past, at the Newfoundland ports referred to, and the value and quantity of goods which were so entered, if any, destined for consumption in Canada, it being agreed by the delegates from both countries, that if irregularities of the character under discussion had occurred, it was a matter of administration solely, and would be so disposed of.
With reference to the boundary question, Sir William Whiteway said that the delimitation was marked on a map which had been published, he understood, by authority of the Canadian Government, and was now in the Colonial Secretary's office in St. John's, and which was quite acceptable to him as showing the true boundary.
Mr. Harvey stated that he had never doubted but that the delimitation, as shown on the map referred to, was final.
Sir John Thompson explained that the map was merely a possible boundary suggested by the geographer of the department of the Interior at Ottawa. That the Government of Canada had understood that the question of boundary was yet undecided.
The question of the boundary in Labrador was further discussed for some time, and an examination was made of three different maps, in which different boundaries are shown, none of which Sir William Whiteway said was the map referred to by him.
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Halifax, 11th Nov., 1892.
Conference resumed 10.30 o'clock:
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With reference to the Labrador boundary, Mr. Bowell started that, since the question had been last discussed, he had received a telegram from the Privy Council Office of Ottawa, stating that, although it had been recommended to Council that the map asked for by the Government of Newfoundland should be transmitted, the recommendation had not been approved, inasmuch as it was considered that the map was imperfect, and that its formal transmission might therefore be misleading.
Mr. Harvey expressed the opinion that the map referred to was a very satisfactory one, except that he should insist that Melville Bay should be under the exclusive Customs control of Newfoundland.
Mr. Chapleau pointed out that the delimitation, as shown on the map referred to, gave a considerable portion of the coast of Melville Bay to Canada, and that the control of the coast would naturally involve the control of the waters adjacent thereto.
Mr. Bowell called attention to the fact that, although the Hudson Bay post at North-west river might by this delimitation be located in the territory of Newfoundland, yet it was probable that a large portion of the goods landed there would be intended for consumption on the Canadian side of the border.
Sir John Thompson suggested that the Newfoundland Government should appoint a geographer to act jointly with the geographer of the Department of the Interior at Ottawa in tracing up all available data, and to report the results of their examination to their respective Governments.
Sir John Thompson's suggestion was agreed to.
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Halifax, 14th November, 1892.
Conference resumed at 3 o'clock:
Sir William Whiteway on behalf of the Newfoundland delegates handed in counter proposal "B" (see Appendix 6).
Mr. Bowell on behalf of the Canadian delegates handed in counter proposal "C" (see Appendix 7).
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In case this meets with the approval of the Canadian delegates, the reports to the respective Governments should embrace . . . . . . . an agreement for the delimitation of Labrador boundary . . .
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The Canadian representatives acquiesce in the proposal to make representations to Her Majesty's Government with reference to a Consulate at St. Pierre, and to delimit the Labrador boundary, whenever the Newfoundland Government is prepared to do so—an examination of the question being in the meantime made by geographical experts.
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