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Labrador Boundary Dispute

It is impossible to determine exactly when the first Europeans, other than the Vikings, came to Labrador. Certainly by the early 1500s Basque whalers and fishermen had established themselves along part of its coastline. The French gradually became a prominent presence in the area, regarding it as an extension of New France. When the French ceded most of their North American territory to the British under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the so-called "coasts of Labrador" fell under the jurisdiction of the governor of Newfoundland.

Over the next century and a half, responsibility for the area transferred several times between Quebec (later Canada) and Newfoundland. At the same time, Newfoundland continued to maintain jurisdiction over some portions of the coast. As late as 1888 a Newfoundland judge indicated to the island's governor that there was a discrepancy between what Newfoundland claimed of the territory, and what was indicated as Newfoundland territory on a Canadian government map. Although efforts were made at the time to settle the question, it was not considered an important issue, and interest dwindled.

The modern boundary argument began in 1902, when the Newfoundland government granted a lumber company license to harvest trees on both sides of the Hamilton River (now called the Churchill River). The Quebec government considered the southern part of the river to be part of Quebec, and complained to Canada's secretary of state. Newfoundland refused to cancel the license. The island maintained that it had rights to the watershed of all rivers draining into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1904 the Canadian government suggested that the boundary question be put before the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council. Three years later, in 1907, Newfoundland indicated that it agreed to the proposal, and would prepare a submission.

Disagreement over the content of the submissions, and the interruption caused by World War I, delayed the matter until 1922. The British Privy Council was finally asked to determine the boundary of the disputed territory as indicated in various proclamations, statutes and imperial orders-in-council. Deliberations began in October of 1926. In 1927 the Privy Council decided in Newfoundland's favour, a verdict accepted by Canada. The decision was further strengthened by Newfoundland's entry into Canada under the terms of the British North America Act, 1949 (


Chadwick, St. John.  --  Newfoundland : island into province.  --  London : Cambridge University Press, 1967.  --  268 p.

Harris, Leslie.  --  "Labrador Boundary Dispute".  --  Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador.  --  Ed. Cyril F. Poole & Joseph R. Smallwood.  --  St. John's, Nfld. : Harry Cuff Publications Ltd., 1991.  --  Vol. 3, p. 216-221

Hiller, James K.  --  Confederation : deciding Newfoundland's future, 1934-1949.  --  St. John's, Nfld. : Newfoundland Historical Society, 1998.  --  75 p.

McEwen, Alan C.  --  "Labrador Boundary Dispute".  --  The Canadian encyclopedia : year 2000 edition.  --  Ed. James H. Marsh.  --  3rd print ed.  --  Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 1999.  --  P. 1273