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Conditions in Newfoundland in 1906



[ Canadian Annual Review, 1906; for full citation, see the end of the text]


Part 1: Conflict between Quebec and Newfoundland on the Labrador border


An inter-Colonial development was the law­suit commenced by the Province [of Quebec ] in regard to Newfoundland's claim to jurisdiction over the Labrador coast and hinterland. It turned upon a Newfoundland grant of charter and concessions to a Company on Hamilton Inlet which was now claimed to be within Quebec's territory. Timber had been cut and an action lay in the Quebec Courts for $100,000 damages against   the Company. Unfortunately, perhaps, for the Provincial contention it was found that some of the Interior Department's maps at Ottawa gave New­foundland jurisdiction over the entire coast of Labrador .



Part 2: Main events and issues in Newfoundland in 1906


Anything touching the public affairs of Newfoundland in its .relations with other countries touches Canada . Between 1898 and 1905 New­foundland's imports from the Dominion increased 100 per cent. and its exports to Canada 109 per cent.; in 1906 the Island reached the crest of a most prosperous period with a trade of over $22,000,000 and a financial surplus of $69,000. During the year Mr. A. B. Morine, K.C., for a long time Leader of the Opposition in the Legislature, resigned (June 12) and left Newfoundland to live in Toronto, Canada . He was succeeded in the representation of Bonavista on Nov. 2nd by Mr. Donald Morison, K.C., leader of the local Orangemen and, earlier in the year, Mr. Charles Dawe was elected for Port-de-Grave. Sir Robert Thorburn, at one time Premier of the Island for a number of years; died on Apl. 12. The visit of Lord Grey in the summer stirred up some of the old anti-Confederate feeling of the people, but only for a moment and the incident did good in the end. In the Commons at Ottawa , on Mch. 19, Sir Wilfrid Laurier made the following definite reply to questions: "The Government of Newfoundland is aware that we are ready to enter into communication with them at any time that they choose to discuss the subject of bringing the Island into Confederation. With regard to the British West Indies , we are prepared to extend our relations with them but we are not prepared at this time to invite or encourage political union."


During the Legislative Session Sir Robert Bond, the Premier, put through an Act which forbade aliens to fish in Newfoundland waters unless entitled by treaty; prohibited British subjects from fishing from any alien vessels; forbade residents of the Island from engaging aboard foreign fishing vessels and from selling, hiring or lending   fishing gear to such vessels; made foreigners amenable to all colonial laws not inconsistent with treaty provisions. On May 4 the Premier explained the Bill as due to the failure of United States fishermen to clear the Customs, to pay the light dues, or to observe the local laws against smuggling. Mr. Morine opposed the measure as practically a declaration of war against a country with which the Empire was at peace. It passed by a good majority, however, and through the Legislative Council unanimously. Meanwhile, negotiations were announced as pending between the British and United States Governments. On Oct. 8 ratifications were exchanged of a Modus Vivendi under which the United States fishermen were to be allowed the use of purse seines during the coming season together with the right of employing Newfoundland fishermen outside the three mile limit. The American Government undertook that its fishermen would pay light dues and report at a Custom house when it was physically possible. The recent Act of the Newfoundland Legislature was, of course, disallowed.


Iii political and press circles this temporary arrangement created a storm of denunciation; in Canadian newspapers it was described as another Alaska boundary affair; amongst the Island fishermen it seems, on the whole, to have been welcomed. Sir Robert Bond stated that it had been concluded in the teeth of Colonial protests; a meeting of St. John merchants echoed the objection to it as a violation of Colonial rights; the press described it as a surrender of the Colony's claims in a prolonged fight for control of its herring fisheries and pointed out that the same policy had been applied to French fishermen for 20 years; Mr. Winston Churchill stated that the Colony had been consulted throughout the negotiations but had declined to accede to the provisional agreement. The Newfoundland Government decided to test the validity of the Modus Vivendi and proceeded to enforce its own law as to Newfoundlanders shipping on foreign vessels. Two local fishermen were arrested on Nov. 12th and three days later were fined by the local Court £100 each or three months imprisonment. Notice of appeal to the Supreme Court of the Island was given and the men released on bail. The official correspondence, made public on Dec. 10, seemed to indicate that the Imperial Government had for months tried to find some basis for settlement in the matter and it claimed that the final action was taken only in order to avert practical hostilities during the current fishing season.


Part 3: Visit of Lord Grey to Newfoundland


On July 19th His Excellency left Ottawa for a visit to Newfoundland and Chief Justice the Hon. Charles Fitzpatrick was appointed to act as Deputy in his absence. Sir William Macgregor, Governor of Newfoundland, had previously visited Ottawa and tendered Lord Grey an earnest invitation to be his guest in the near future. There were the usual varied rumours as to the object of this visit and supposed discussions. as to Confederation. Sensational despatches to Newfoundland papers followed and similar ones were sent to the Canadian press on July 26th describing various imaginary slights which were to be inflicted upon Lord Grey for his supposed mission regarding Confederation. More than one Canadian paper at once accepted these statements and published elaborate editorials deprecating the visit and, in some cases, criticizing the Governor-General. Notable amongst these was the Montreal Herald which had also protested against the supposed efforts of Earl Grey to facilitate treaty arrangements at Washington .


When he actually reached Newfoundland , accompanied by Countess Grey and other members of his family, the reception was most cordial; although Sir Robert Bond took occasion to announce that the visit had nothing to do with the unpopular subject of Confederation. The vice-regal party stayed until Aug. 5th. Speaking at a Government House function in St. John's, on Aug. 3rd, the Island Governor proposed the toast of the Canadian Governor-General and said that the visit was due to his own appreciation in the past, and in other Colonies, of the value of such intercourse between neighbouring Governors and of his intention to set a new precedent in the relations of Canada and Newfoundland. In his reply Lord Grey referred to the natural beauties of the Island, to its obvious resources and coming development, to the absence of all political motive in his own visit. He spoke of the question of Confederation with Canada as one which he could not discuss, as a word which was not exactly a blessed one to the people of the Island, and then concluded in tactful language as follows: "Well, if they were opposed to it that was enough; there was nothing more to be said. A policy of Confederation could only become operative on the direct initiative of the people of the Island - but he wished them to understand that if the day should ever come when they, the people of Newfoundland, realized that it would be to their advantage to become a unit of the Dominion and a co-sharer with the other Provinces of Canada in all the wonderful prosperity which was already rising high on their horizon, all they would have to do would be to bear against a door already open and he assured them that behind that door they would find a most loving, hearty and generous welcome."


The visit did much good in promoting a more friendly feeling toward Canada and proved once more Lord Grey's capacity as a peacemaker. According to a despatch from Mr. P. T. McGrath, the Newfoundland journalist (Aug. 14), it was "one of the great social successes in the Island's annals." On Aug. 22 His Excellency was at Quebec taking part with his Prime Minister in welcoming the British battleship Dominion and formally presenting to its officers the gift of plate for which small collections had been taken up throughout Canada by the Daughters of the Empire. In the course of his speech he said: "Nothing has please me more since I became Governor-General of Canada than the evidence which is continually reaching me from every side of the desire of self-respecting Canadians to contribute their share to the support of a common Imperial burden. I am aware that to some the idea is well-nigh intolerable that the old mother should be allowed to carry for a single day for Canada a load which Canada may be able to carry for herself. Ladies and gentlemen, I rejoice whenever I come across this manly, honourable, self-respecting sentiment which is characteristic of Britons all the world over, and worthy of Canada."


Source: J. Castell HOPKINS , The Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1906, Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company, 1907, pp. 366 (for part 1), 531-532 (for part 3), 622-623 (for part 3).



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College