Sir Robert Bond's Speech (extracts)

The Evening Telegram, 22 April, 1904.


It is with a feeling of the most profound satisfaction that I, today, find myself in a position to announce to this House the result of the negotiations between His Majesty's Government and that of France in respect to what is known as the Treaty Shore of this Colony. For very many years the people of this Colony have been patiently bearing with a condition of things that has been well nigh insufferable, a condition of things that rendered a population of several thousand people, resident along a coast which stretches 800 miles between Cape John and Cape Ray, considerably less than British subjects. In other words, under the conditions that applied there and that were tolerated by His Majesty's Government through long years, these people could not rise to the full stature of children of the Empire. Their privileges were dwarfed, their ambition was restrained, and their rights as British subjects ignored and in some instances violently resisted.

While subjects of the Crown of Great Britain living upon the land which gave them birth; while contributors to the revenues of the Colony and thus entitled to the consideration and protection this implied, they could obtain no title to the land upon which they were reared, and no fixity of tenure to the homes that their industry or that of their forefathers had created. They could not ply their avocation in the waters that rolled in at their feet, teeming with treasure that meant food, comfort and independence, unless by the permission of the subjects of France, and then only with such implements as the subjects of France elected to permit. In the every day round of their business, they could not be sure of non-molestation, for if they went fishing and were fortunate enough to locate a shoal of fish, and the French discovered their success, they were almost certain to be driven from their moorings by the British Naval Officer at the request of the fishermen of France; and if they protested, their nets and other implements of trade were confiscated and off-times destroyed. Even the laws framed by this Legislature for the protection and carrying on of the fisheries of the Colony were rendered inoperative as regards one half of our coastline, because, at the instance of France, they were not permitted by His Majesty's Government to apply to the Treaty Coast.

Further, not only were the best harbours on the treaty Coast held by the Fishermen of France to the exclusion of British subjects, not only were the best fishing grounds monopolized by the fishermen of France, not only were our laws rendered inoperative, but the development of the rich mineral and other material wealth of the hinterland was virtually closed to enterprise and capital because facilities for shipping it from the coast were objected to by France and concurred in by England.

For years and years the plaintive cry has gone up to high heaven from a despoiled and dispirited people, "How long, O Lord, how long!" It has only been the remarkable loyalty and devotion of this people to the Crown that has obviated bloodshed and prevented war between the nations of England and France.

At length, through I believe in the largest measure, the personal efforts of His Majesty King Edward the Peacemaker, redress has come to us ....................

Now then, sir, we will briefly contrast the past with the present condition of affairs and ascertain where the people of the Colony stand to-day in respect to the Treaty Shore. Up to this time the principal harbours that lie between Cape St. John on the east passing northward and down to Cape Ray have been held in possession by the subjects of France to the exclusion of British subjects, who could neither build there, carry on business of any kind or fish within the waters.

Along the whole Coast line of 800 miles they could fish only by sufferance, for if the French fishermen objected to their interference, the British Naval Officer exercised his police functions and made them move on. Under a temporary arrangement, the Modus Vivendi, they could establish Lobster Factories at certain points on the Coast, but even this privilege was subject to the approval of France. The Whaling industry could not be established there, because the French contended it would interfere with their Codfishery, and for the sake of peace England acquiesced. Mining could not be enterprised because the piers necessary for the shipment of the ore were alleged to be an obstruction contrary to the Treaties, and further because doubt was thrown upon all title to land on the Treaty Coast by the insertion of what is known as the "Treaty Clauses" in all grants. Agriculture was retarded for like reasons; and as a consequence the whole of that vast stretch of country, properly regarded as the richest section of the Island, remains to this day undeveloped and neglected. That is our position to-day. What will be the position when this Convention comes into operation?

1st. This island, which some of us love so dearly despite its backwardness, its isolation, its ruggedness, physical and climatic, may henceforth be hailed not only as our native land, but our own land, freed from every foreign claim, and the blasting influence of foreign oppression - ours in entirety - solely ours.

2nd. The fisherman may ply his avocation without let or hindrance in every creek and cove and harbour, for there will be no French Shore rights to bar his liberty. The men of the north and the south and the east and the west shall be able to claim as theirs the stations which are now French and prosecute, along the whole of what was known as the Treaty Coast, the lobster, cod, herring, salmon and other fisheries without fear or danger of molestation.

3rd. The Whaling Industry, the establishment of which on the West and North-East Coasts has been prevented by reason of the objections of France, will immediately be enterprised ....

4th. Every foot of soil in the Island will now be available to our people. Mineral, Agricultural and Timber Lands, that have been awaiting development and have been virtually closed by Treaty obligations, will now be open to enterprises and capital.

5th. The Fisheries Laws that have been restricted to a portion of our Coast will apply to every part of the Island, and Naval Officers will henceforth have no shadow of authority to promulgate Rules and Regulations for the establishment of lobster factories, or the prosecution or restriction of other fisheries.

6th. A British Consul will be appointed at St. Pierre, and the smuggling that has plundered our revenue of hundreds of thousands of dollars will be brought to an end.

Taking an unprejudicial view of the situation then, we have ample reason to rejoice and to be truly thankful for what has been accomplished. The French Shore question has been settled after years and years of vain endeavour. Settled, too, without sacrifice of any interest of this Colony whatsoever. It was feared by many that a settlement would never be reached without a repeal or modification of the Bait Act, the operation of which so materially affects French interests. But the Bait Act remains unaltered, and no new baiting privileges are conveyed under the Convention. Henceforth, in the catching of bait, as well as other fish on or near our coast, the fishermen of France will be subject to our Fishery Rules and Regulations, and to such other police Rules and Regulations as may be approved by the House.

Under this Convention, let it be remembered that the French have to abandon their fishing rooms and lobster factories on every portion of the coast. If they could not successfully conduct the codfishery while they possessed the privilege of establishments in which to dry or cure their fish, and we know that they have not been able to do so for many years, we may conclude that now they are denied that privilege they will speedily abandon the fisheries on the West and Northeast coasts altogether. Their catch of cod they cannot dry on our shores, and the lobster fishery they must necessarily abandon immediately because their factories are to be removed. No other Convention ever contemplated the abandonment by the French of their establishments on the Treaty Shore. This does more, it heralds the time when even the memory of their presence will fade like a fevered dream before the brightness of a new day. It is for us now to encourage by every legitimate means the development and settlement of what has hitherto been known as the Treaty Shore, and thus effectively to blot out of remembrance that which has been a curse to this country and a strain upon British rule.

I congratulate this House, Sir, I congratulate my fellow countrymen far and near upon what has been accomplished, and I desire to record an expression of my gratitude to His Majesty's Government, who, at the cost of the Empire, has purchased the release of the people of this Colony from the humiliation and suffering which, in the interest of the Empire, they have so long and patiently borne.