The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume III

[31 May 1926.]

[27 Aug.,

Complied Map on tracing from Surveys by Capt. Maxwell, Capt. tooker and Sir Wm. McGregor

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No. 703.



In the Privy Council

IN THE MATTER of the BOUNDARY between       the   DOMINION   of   CANADA   and   the       COLONY  of   NEWFOUNDLAND  in  the       LABRADOR   PENINSULA

        I, JOHN BUTT of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, Collector of Customs, make aoth and say as follows:—

        1.  Since 1910 I have been Collector of Customs at Blanc Sablon, Newfoundland, Labrador, where I reside during the fishing season from May until December, succeeding the late Benjamin Parsons.

        2.  I have read, very carefully, the letter from Governor McGregor to Sir Robert Bond, dated St. John's, 27th August, 1906, a copy of which is attached hereto and marked “A.”

        3.  That letter correctly describes the situation with regard to the Boundary between Newfoundland and Canada at Blanc Sablon.

        4.  In the discharge of my duties as Collector, I have always regarded as the land boundary of Newfoundland's jurisdiction the River mentioned by by [sic] Sir William McGregor in Paragraph 5 of his letter annexed; as our maritime boundary the line from Point au Peau to Woody Island mentioned by Sir William McGregor in Paragraph 6 of his letter annexed, and have collected duties only on goods imported for doing business on the east side of the River, as mentioned in Paragraphs 9 and 10 of his letter annexed.

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        5.  Since I was appointed Collector in 1910 I have not required any American, Canadian or Newfoundland fishing vessels to pay light dues, but I have exacted light dues from Canadian trading vessels entering Blanc Sablon Harbor and from Newfoundland vessels coming there with cargoes to discharge or to load cargoes for foreign ports. If any American vessels, other than fishing vessels, came I would require them to pay, but none ever come.

        6.  As Relieving Officer for the Newfoundland Government I supply relief to the people in the settlement, including the two families living west of Blanc Sablon River, as we regard them as Newfoundlanders who have settled there temporarily.

        7.  I also built for the Newfoundland Government in 1924 the bridge across the River and the Quebec Government made us a small contribution towards completing the western end of it, because it was a convenience for the people living at Long Point; enabling them more easily to reach Blanc Sablon for their mail, all of which they get through the Newfoundland Post Office there as they have no postal facilities at their own place.

JOHN BUTT,                      
Collector H. M. Customs.
Sworn at St. John's, Newfoundland, this
     31st day of May in the year 1926.
          Before me

               SIMON BUTLER,

Government House,                      
St. John's, Newfoundland,     
27th August, 1906.
The Right Honourable
Sir Robert Bond, P.C., K.C.M.G.,
Prime Minister.

Dear Sir Robert Bond,
          On receiving from Sir Edward Morris his letter of 29th June, covering a telegram from the Sub-Collector at Blanc Sablon of date 28th June, reporting that the “American Banker ‘Mabel D. Hines,’ ninety-two tons. S. B. Hines of Gloucester Master and Owner, positively refuses to pay light dues (at Anse Sablon) left port, others paid to date,” I informed that gentleman that it was my intention to visit Anse Sablon, and that if I did so I should have much pleasure in putting before Ministers any information I might obtain bearing on the question of jurisdiction at that port.

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        I now have the honor to inform you that as the S.S. “Fiona” was taking Mr. O'Rielly to the Labrador Coast to hold an enquiry there, I availed myself of that opportunity, and visited Anse Sablon from the 12th to the 16th July, and am consequently in a position to throw some light on the question of Newfoundland jurisdiction at that place, which is the starting point of the boundary between the Dominion of Canada and the Colony of Newfoundland on the Labrador Peninsula.

        2.  I went to Anse Sablon provided with the instruments necessary to make a complete triangulation of the Bay and its vicinity. I found that the greater part of what was required had already been done by Staff Commander Maxwell, R.N., in 1890, and by Captain Tooker, at present in charge of the Admiralty survey in these waters. I enclose herewith a sketch map prepared from the work of these surveyors and from the observations made by myself and my staff, which will serve to illustrate what follows herein.

        3.  The true starting point of the north and south Boundary line from Anse Sablon to the 52nd degree of Latitude is by no means clear. Apparently it could with reason be located at any one of these different points:—
(a) At Point St. Charles,
(b) At the mouth of the Anse Sablon River,
(c) At Point a Peau.

        4.  The considerations on which the starting point might be held to be Point St. Charles are those contained in the Imperial Statute 6 George IV, Chapter LIX. of 22nd June, 1825, which runs as follows:—

     “Be it therefore enacted that so much of the said coast lies to the westward of a line to be drawn due north and south from the bay or harbor of Ance Sablon, inclusive, as far as the fifty second degree of north latitude . . . . shall be and the same are hereby re-annexed to and made part of the said Province of Lower Canada.”

        If this section is to be construed as giving, in virtue of the word “inclusive” the whole of the bay to Canada, then it would appear that the boundary line should start from Point St. Charles, the eastern extremity of the bay, as shewn by the true north and south line in yellow on the accompanying map. It does not appear, however, that this interpretation of the Statute has ever been accepted or acted upon. The difference in distance between Point St. Charles and the mouth of the Anse Sablon River is one and half nautical miles; and between Point St. Charles and Point a Peau, two and three-tenth nautical miles.
        The starting point cannot be accepted as laid down at Point St. Charles without considering fully the alternative starting points that have in actual practice been regarded for two or three generations as the boundary.

        5.  Were it possible to accept the Statute referred to above as giving Anse Sablon as the starting point of the north and south line without further

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qualification, then the point that would be fixed on by a geodetic surveyor would most probably be the mouth of the Blanc Sablon River. It will be seen from the map that the establishment Frewin is situated on the west side of this river; and the station Job on the east side. The Manager of the former is M. Morel of Jersey; the Manager of the latter is Mr. E. Grant. Each of these gentlemen has assured me that the River has always been regarded by residents and officials alike as the boundary ashore between Canada and Newfoundland. Both Mr. Morel and Mr. Grant have been upwards of a score of years residents of Anse Sablon. Their statements are confirmed by Mr. Parsons, Sub-Collector of Customs for this Colony at that port.
        According to this practice the boundary would not be on a north and south line, but be the middle of the River from the sea to the lake shewn on the map, a distance in a straight line of nearly two nautical miles.
        It appears, therefore, that this River Boundary has long been held in actual practice to regulate all relations between the two jurisdictions on land, but only on land.

        6.  Very attentive consideration should be given to the Point au Peau Boundary. The Map shewn that this is the name of the part of the Mainland of Labrador that lies nearest to Woody Island. It is at present, and it would appear to have been for a great many years, the practice of the Officers of both countries to regard a line connecting the western extremity of Woody Island with the nearest point of the mainland as the boundary between the maritime jurisdiction of the two Governments. Consequently all vessels that enter Anse Sablon Bay to the east line shewn in black, joining Woody Island to the nearest point of the mainland, are held by the Newfoundland Customs officers as being subject to the jurisdiction of this Colony. In other words the whole of the bay or harbor of Ance Sablon is held in practice to be, as far as maritime jurisdiction is concerned, part of the Colony of Newfoundland; and all vessels entering that bay, either from the east or from the west, are required to submit to the laws of this Colony. But on the western side of the bay of Anse Sablon, from the mouth of the River to Point a Peau, the Newfoundland jurisdiction is in practice held to end at high-water mark. The Frewin Company has a sealing station at Point a Peau, and both that station and their establishment near the Blanc Sablon River are, though they extend to the beach, and though at the latter place there is a wharf stretching some distance into the sea, regarded as being in Canada. This part of the shore is marked in green on the map and it will be noticed that the boundary line laid down by Commander Maxwell lies to the east of a line through Point a Peau. The distance between these lines is, I am informed by Captain Tooker, 550 yards. Maxwell's line was probably drawn there with reference to the top of the hill it is shown to cross; but it may have been placed there to exclude the Frewin Sealing Station

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        7.  That the practice of thus regarding the whole Bay or harbor so far as the water area is concerned, is by no means new, can be abundantly and easily proved:


        (a) In my report on Labrador paragraph 66, I have shewn that the first Court established for the administration of Justice on Labrador, visited Anse Sablon on Circuit. Captain William Paterson, C.B., was Judge of that Court from 1826 till 1833, and exercised his jurisdiction there.

        (b) In the Report of the Proceedings of Mr. Elias Rendell, Collector of Customs, for 1841, the following occurs:—“The encroachment of the French on the rights of our Fisheries on the coast of Labrador is also a subject of just complaint. From Blanc Sablon, in the Straits of Belle Isle, to Henley Harbor, the shore is literally lined with French boats.”

        (c) In his Report dated 1st September, 1856, James L. Prendergast states that he visited Anse Sablon as Collector of Customs and demanded of the establishments of De Queteville and of Boutilier on Woody Island, that they should report vessels and cargo. He also prepared a Census of his District, from Anse Sablon to Sandwich Bay, from which we learn that the Resident Population of Anse Sablon was 16, and of Isle au Bois, 14. Mr. Prendergast did not, it appears, visit Greenly Island.

        (d) The same officer in his Report of 24th September, 1858, says that he arrived at Anse Sablon on the 9th July, and visited there the Quetteville establishment, who employed 150 men and 50 boats; in the previous year they had exported 12,000 quintals of fish, 70 puncheons of oil, and 500 barrels of herring. He gives all the particulars of 48 vessels that he found fishing then at Anse Sablon.

        (e) In his Report dated 13th September, 1860, Mr. Prendergast states that on the 7th July, “three French schooners belonging to St. Pierre were fishing at Greenly Island, being beyond the limits of the Government of Newfoundland.”

        (f) In his Report dated 2nd September, 1861, Mr. Stephen March, General Superintendent of Fisheries, relates that he remained at Blanc Sablon from the 16th to the 19th of July and “found a great number of Nova Scotia schooners fishing there. No account of any French boats crossing over on our grounds up to this date.”

        The above references are only a few of the examples that may be found in the records of this Colony to chew that Newfoundland has exercised jurisdiction in the waters of the bay of Anse Sablon, and on Woody Island for at least three generations.

        8.  These records can be supported by oral evidence from such witnesses as the Honourable Captain Blandford, M. Morel, and Mr. Grant and many


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