IN THE PRIVY COUNCIL.
IN THE MATTER OF THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE DOMINION OF CANADA AND THE COLONY OF NEWFOUNDLAND ON THE
Voluntary Statement of RAOUL THEVENET, of North West River, Lake Melville.
1. I am the manager of the fur trading post of Revillon Freres Trading Co. Ltd., which is situated at the mouth of the Northwest River in Lake Melville. This post was established in 1901 for the purpose of trading in furs with the Montagnais and Nascaupee Indians but more particularly with the former, sometimes called the Gulf of St. Lawrence Indians, which we knew were “hunting” in the country in and about Lake Melville and its tributary rivers. I took charge of the post in 1909.
2. Re Indian Trade : The Indians with whom we trade are mostly Montagnais. We see also a few Nascaupees but only a few families make North West River their headquarters. All the others, the Montagnais, come from St. Augustine, Mingan, Seven Islands and Nascarrow, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These we see only during the winter months when they come out to replenish their provisions, it being too far for them to go and come back to and from their original trading posts to their hunting grounds in the same season. The territory at and around North West River as far as Hopedale towards the coast has been the best of the Indian hunting ground for generations past, but these last few years the so-called Natives (half-breeds) and Newfoundlanders have been making a regular business of trapping, some of them having as many as three to six hundred traps set during the hunting season. In doing this they have overrun the Indian hunting grounds. The Indians are continually complaining to me about the matter, for, as hunting is their only means of living, they are getting poorer every year. Indeed but for the relief which has been given them at the expense of the Government of Canada some of them would surely have starved. They are becoming very bitter against the white trappers and any year trouble may break out. No relief whatever has been given to the Indians by the Newfoundland Government. The North West River Posts get only a small share of the Indian fur trade ; by far the largest part goes to the posts on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Perhaps this is accounted for, in a large measure,
by the fact that the Indians for generations past have been devout Roman Catholics and have been in the habit of going out each year to the Gulf posts to meet the priest in charge of the Missions which have been long established at these posts. In former times, a Roman Catholic priest from Quebec used to visit North West River and for some time there was a Roman Catholic Mission here ; but for some reason unknown to me the priest discontinued his visits about thirty years ago, telling the Indians to meet him thereafter at the Missions on the Gulf.
3. Re Customs Duties : My Company pays each year about Three Thousand Dollars in duties to the Newfoundland Government, and has been doing this since the post was established. We have always paid under protest. We have never been required to pay any duties on furs caught in Canadian territory and exported to Newfoundland via North West River and Rigoulette. Only goods imported from Canada and coming through Rigoulette to points inland have been taxed. We never see any Newfoundland officials, except the Customs Officer at Rigoulette and some years a Game and Fish Warden. In 1910 and 1911 Judge Morris and Minister of Marine Picott paid us a visit. It was short. I complained about the mail service which was and is still shamefully handled and nil during the winter. They made a good many promises which they did not or could not keep, and it is the last we saw or heard of them. This mail service is the only return ever given to the people here for all the moneys paid to the Newfoundland Government by way of duties. The Labrador people have no representative in the Newfoundland Legislature.
4. Re Land Grants : Some grants of lands were made by the Newfound-land Government in 1905 to some of the natives, notably to Malcolm McLean of Carter's Basin and to a number of the natives at Grand Village, Mud Lake, but I cannot say how much land was granted. The fee charged appears to have been about Three Dollars for Fifty Acres. Licenses of mining locations have also been granted by the Newfoundland government as far inland as Lake Winokapou on the Hamilton River. I submit herewith two of these licenses ; one, in favour of Charles H. Goudie and, the other, in favour of Joseph Lescandron, both of North West River.
5. Re Magisterial Authority : For some ten or fifteen years past, Doctor W. T. Grenfell, of the Deep Sea Mission, who is a Newfoundland Justice of the Peace for The Labrador, occasionally has visited North West River and heard a number of cases. In 1914 a Canadian, Mr. Armand Martin, then the Manager of Revillon Freres Post here, was appointed a Justice of the Peace for North West River. He vacated the office in 1915 when he left North West River. Dr. Paddon of the Grenfell Mission was appointed in his room and stead. Dr. Paddon heard three cases here : two were cases of seduction and one a breach of the game regulations. In one of the seduction cases, Dr. Paddon imposed a fine of $100 ; in the other, he sentenced the accused to one year in gaol. The prisoner was taken to the gaol at St. John's
and when he came back he reported that it was the best time he ever had had in his life. His term was shortened three months for good conduct and on his release the Warden of the gaol showed him the " sights " of the City. Thus, the administration of Justice at North West River has been made as attractive as possible to the natives. In the third case, relating to the breach of the game regulations, Dr. Paddon dismissed the charge but forfeited the pelts which were 1 Silver and 2 Red Foxes.
6. Re Game and Fish Regulations : During recent years an attempt has been made to apply the Newfoundland game and fish regulations at and about North West River, but these regulations are not observed by the natives except during the occasional visit of the Customs Officer at Rigoulette or of the Game and Fish Warden. The Indians make no pretense of observing these regulations at any time, being governed apparently only by their own customs. I understand that a Newfoundland Game and Fish Warden first visited North West River about 1906 ; he was a man named White, Robert Montague says he was told by White to take up his nets which were in the Rapids about three miles above the mouth of North West River, but that he paid no attention to him. Four years ago, however, Game and Fish Warden Delaney required Montague to remove his nets from the Rapids. His reason for doing this is not at all clear in view of the fact that my Company as well as the Hudson's Bay Co. and the Natives of North West River were permitted to continue to fish by nets in the mouth of the River as has been their custom time out of memory. It is the practice of the Game and Fish Warden when he comes here to require the trading companies to fill out forms showing the quantities of furs which they have bought during the season.
7. Re Poor Relief : I know of only one case of relief given by the Newfoundland Government at North West River. The recipient was Mrs. McKenzie. She had just arrived from the coast. The relief amounted to $12 as per order from relieving officer Gosse. It looked much like a personal gift, and she spent it all on fancy articles. That was in 1919. During the Spanish Influenza crisis, the same year, many of the natives died, and the Newfoundland Government was called upon for help. The government's answer, as publicly announced by Sir John C. Crosbie, Minister of Shipping, and published in “The Plaindealer,” a weekly newspaper published at St. John's, Newfoundland, early in November, 1919, was “Let them die.” This statement is characteristic of the attitude of indifference and neglect which the Newfoundland Government at all times has shown towards the Labrador.
8. Re Cod Fish. No Cod Fishing was ever carried on, so far as I have been able to ascertain, in the waters of Lake Melville, for the good reason that there are no cod fish there. The explanation, resides in the fact that these waters are largely fresh and consequently not a suitable habitat for the deep sea cod fish. This condition of things appears to have existed time out of memory, so there is no reason to believe that cod fish were ever caught in
Lake Melville. They have been caught occasionally in the Hamilton Inlet a few miles eastward of Rigoulette, but that I believe is the nearest point to Lake Melville where they have been found.
9. To the best of my knowledge every one of the natives living in this country earnestly wished that this will be held to be Canadian territory. They say, “We do not think anything worse could happen to us than to be put under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland.”
I make the foregoing statement voluntarily, verily believing it to be true according to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.
Dated at North West River this Twenty First Day of July, A.D. 1921.
(Sgd.) R. THEVENET.
Witness:—(Sgd.) C.P. PLAXTON.