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No. 536.

JUDGE PINSENT'S REPORT, 1870.



C.O. 197/52.   APPENDIX.   JOURNAL OF THE COUNCIL,       NEWFOUNDLAND.   No. 34.

Report of Robert J. Pinsent, Esq., Judge of the Court of Labrador, to His Excellency the Governor, 1870.

      To his Excellency Colonel Stephen I. Hill, C.B., Governor of       Newfoundland, etc., etc.

St. John's.            
December 31st 1870.  

SIR,
      I have the honor to report to your Excellency my proceedings and observations at Labrador, during my Circuit the past summer.
      On the 10th of June I sailed from St. John's, in the schooner William Stairs, a vessel employed by the Government as a Revenue cruiser and Circuit ship on the coast of Labrador.
      Mr. Knight and Mr. Canning, Collectors of Customs were on board; the former gentleman having the general direction of the destination of the vessel. In consequence of the prevalence of Northerly and Easterly Winds, and of information that there was much field ice obstructing the passage by the Northern route, we proceeded South about, through Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Straits of Belle Isle: being favored with fair winds, we accomplished, by this unusual and generally objectionable route, our passage to Labrador in five days, arriving at Blanc Sablon on the 15th of June.
      From that period up to the time of our departure from Labrador, we were continually cruising on the coast, going as far North as Hamilton Inlet, and visiting all the principal Harbors and settlements.
      We sailed from Labrador, on our return home, on the 17th of October, and after a very stormy and dangerous passage arrived in St. John's on the 25th of the same month.
      I was happy to learn at Labrador, that the resident inhabitants had, last winter, been exempt from the sufferings experienced the previous winter, from want of a sufficient supply of food.

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     The legal cases brought before me during the Circuit were:—
2 cases of Larceny,
1 of assault,
1 of trespass on land,
1 of damage to nets,
1 of killing goats,
1 of bastardy,
2 of debt,
2 cases of inquiry respecting the death of two men.

      In one case, in which the Bailiff of the Court was obstructed and assaulted in the execution of his duty, I brought the matter under the consideration of Her Majesty's Attorney General, who indicted the offender in the Supreme Court at St. John's. Although few cases are actually brought before the Court, there is no question but that its annual circuit at Labrador, has the important effect of preventing the commission of offences and wrongs which might otherwise be done with impunity. I consider the general conduct of the people at Labrador very creditable to them; few serious crimes, or other offences, are committed there, considering the great number of men congregated on that coast during the fishery season, in addition to resident inhabitants.
      I beg leave to bring under the consideration of the Government, two subjects, which I think require to be provided for by Legislative enactment, viz.: The Recovery of Debts; and the Regulation of the Salmon Fishery at Labrador.
      With respect to actions for the recovery of Debts at Labrador, I would suggest an enactment to prevent the injustice that arises, in cases in which creditors on the spot obtaining judgment for old debts require the levy of execution for the amount, out of the produce of the current voyage, without reference to the claims of the absent supplying merchants, the fishery servants and other creditors. Under the present state of the law, applicable to the Court of Labrador, the Judge cannot refuse, in such cases, to issue a writ of execution and levy for the whole amount of the judgment; for he has not authority to declare a debtor insolvent (sic], and make distributions of his effects, according to the Law of Insolvency.
      I am of the opinion that power should be given to the Judge, when it appears to him that a defendant is insolvent, to limit the amount for which attachment or execution should issue against goods for debt; or to suspend the issue thereof. And in cases where execution against the person, for debt, appears to the Judge to be oppressive, to refuse to issue such execution.
      With reference to the Salmon Fishery at Labrador, I think it very desirable that the legislature should define the rights of persons to occupy the stations (posts as they are called), where they set their nets.
      In the Bays of Labrador, such as Hamilton Inlet, Sandwich Bay, and similar places, the permanent residents, and others who regularly resort to the

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coast, have occupied certain fishing stations, where in the summer they carry on the Salmon Fishery; these Salmon posts, as they are called, have been exclusively occupied by such persons for many years, and their subsistance depends on the possession of them.
      But very lately a question has arisen of the right of these people to the exclusive occupation of their salmon posts, and strangers threaten to interfere with them. This is a matter of vital importance to the old inhabitants, and requires legal decision, I think by an Act of Legislature.
      Under all the circumstances of the case, it appears to me reasonable that they should have secured to them the exclusive right to the Salmon posts which they have hitherto held and occupied, so long as they regularly and annually continue to fish them, and in other respects conform to the law.
      It has been represented to me, by several persons well acquainted with the Salmon Fishery, that the distance now required by law, in the setting of salmon nets, is not sufficient; that at least double the distance between such nets ought to be required. As far as I am competent to give an opinion on the subjects, I consider this representation well founded, and worthy of attention.

SCHOOLS.

      Only four schools were in operation this year at Labrador, viz:—

Place.Teacher.When in Operation.Scholars.*Salary.
Matthew's Cove, 
Battle Harbor.
Mary Marshall.Summer only.  59  $24.00 
Cape Charles. Catherine Young. Summer only.2524.00 
Red Bay.John Bailey.Winter only.1824.00 
Pinware.Mrs. O'Dell.Summer and winter.4036.00 
    Total $108.00 
* On the Books, but the number in attendance varying, according to the season
of the year.

I paid the salaries out of the money placed in my hands by the Government for that purpose, and I supplied the Schools with books.
      I distributed books to a great many resident families on the coast, by whom they were thankfully received, and to whom they will be very useful in promoting education, in the only way in which it can be generally accomplished, by instruction among themselves in their own houses.
      The medicines supplied annually by the Government, for the use of the people at Labrador, are esteemed by them as a great boon: in many cases which came under my notice they proved of essential service.
      This season the quantity of field ice on the coast of Labrador was unprecedented; it remained in many places until late in July, the effect of which was most injurious to the fisheries, by preventing the fish from striking in to

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the shore at the usual time, and obstructing the harbors, so that boat and vessels could not get to their fishing stations in due season; the result being that the voyages of cod and herring were the most unsuccessful perhaps ever known on the coast of Labrador.
      The Salmon catch, in the great bays, was about half an average voyage.
      The weather was boisterous and wet, with a prevalance of Northerly and Easterly Winds during the whole season.

I have the honor to be Your,
              Excellency's most obedient servant,
ROBERT JOHN PINSENT,          
Judge of the Court of Labrador.  

[1927lab]

 

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