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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Through the Looking Glass - A Constitutional Crisis in the Making

Much has been discussed in Newfoundland and Labrador in the past day or two about a potentially flammable situation developing between Quebec, Newfoundland & Labrador and the federal government over claims by Quebec that a large portion of Labrador rests inside its provincial border.

There appears to be a lot of misinformation of the facts being put before the public by some media outlets, either innocently or intentionally, so in an effort to summarize the reality of the situation, here are the facts as they currently stand:

More than a week ago reporter, Rob Antle, with the newspaper “The Telegram” wrote a story about an impending border dispute between Newfoundland & Labrador and Quebec. He was not informed by any official source in government but uncovered the situation himself.

Earlier this week the Globe and Mail ran a front page story highlighting the same situation.

Here it is in a nutshell.

Quebec Hydro, an arm of the Quebec provincial government, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Environment, is in the midst of an environmental assessment before breaking ground on a major hydro development on Romaine River which, along with four other rivers, spans the border between the two provinces.

All “official” maps of the area that were supplied by Quebec, and accepted by the joint committee wrongly depict a large portion of Labrador, containing the head waters of all of those rivers, including the Romaine, as being fully within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the Province of Quebec.

The article in the Globe & Mail pointed out that by accepting those maps for the environmental assessment the federal government was implicitly accepting Quebec’s claims that it controls a section of Labrador as well as the head waters of the rivers they plan to exploit for a massive power generation project.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador was not invited to participate in the review process and only found out about the situation months later.

Upon learning of the situation back in November, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador submitted a six page document, plus maps, that did little more than point out the problem at hand and express displeasure with the process underway.

No demands to cease the process were made.

As far as anyone can tell no further actions have been taken or are planned.

Officials at the Ministry of the Environment told the Globe & Mail that any territorial dispute is a matter for the provinces to resolve.

This is not correct.

The border in question was clearly identified and ruled upon in 1927 by the Kings Privy Council in England, long before Newfoundland and Labrador ever became a Canadian province.

It was a ruling that both Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador (a separate Dominion) accepted, both being Nations constitutionally ruled by the British North America Act at the time.

That 1927 border ruling was also clearly reiterated and agreed upon in the first two paragraphs of the Terms of Union by which Newfoundland and Labrador entered Canada. It is now tied to the Canadian Constitution making it a Constitutional issue.

Quebec never signed onto the Canadian Constitution and it has never accepted the 1927 Privy Council border decision.

For years Quebec’s maps, be they tourist, topographical, mineral exploration, election riding or any other form, have depicted its unsubstantiated claims to Southern Labrador.

Reports are now surfacing from long time political figures that at least twice in the past several decades the Quebec government has tried to quietly coerce or maneuver a Newfoundland and Labrador Premier into handing over the region to them.

With this in mind the actions of Quebec and acceptance of them by Federal Officials, who are proceeding with the environmental process in spite of the facts, have led to a great deal of concern among the general population in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yet Premier Williams and his government, as well as Federal MPs are oddly silent on the issue.

Since the dispute became public knowledge, neither the Premier nor anyone else in his government have issued any kind of official statement addressing the concerns of the people or outlining what they intend to do to protect the province’s territorial boundary.

In such a tension filled situation rumors and speculation often fill the void when facts are not available. Premier Williams is not known as the sort of man who sits quietly by when major issues arise so his silence on this file has led to widespread speculation that perhaps something unsavory is happening behind closed doors while the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador are being kept in the dark.

They worry that the environmental process is due to be completed in just two weeks and if something is not done to address the issue quickly it may be too late.

If one nation attempted to unilaterally take control of territory that was part of another it would be considered an act of war. Taken in that context, Quebec cannot be allowed to proceed with what amounts to an overt act of aggression against Newfoundland and Labrador


Chrystal Ocean said...

You've written to your MLA and/or Williams about this, right? And sent letters to editors?

Patriot said...

I know I have Chrystal and I certainly hope everyone else does.

By the way, not to be snotty but simply acting on my natural urge to inform about NL, they're called MHA's here. (Members of the House of Assembly).

Sorry, I hate it myself when people do that but I can't help myself.



Ussr said...

""As the Government of NL pointed out last November to the joint review panel assessing the Romaine project, the accurate interprovincial boundary is in no way 'indefinitif' (as Quebec has claimed). 'Quebec's own Dorion Commission found, in 1971, that Quebec HAD NO RECOURSE to challenge this boundary""

Patriot can I say " WORLD COURT " and "SUE" The Fderal GOVERMENT !!!

Anonymous said...

The silence on this from government is deafening. What the hell is up!!

WestEast said...

I truly don't think the Province Government is being quit about this. This is a Government that is willing to fight at the drop of a hat and they are very loud but they are also very smart.

If I was going against them(gov't) I'd be more worried about them when they don't jump on something right away with a lot of noise.

Because if they are not saying anything then maybe just maybe they have something up their selves and just don't want to give it away yet. Of Course I could be completely wrong.


Ussr said...

February 13, 2009 6:38 AM, yes anon, this is making me carzy as well. Patriot, you have had to hear something by now.

C'mon, whats the Goverment of newfoundland and labrador doing about this.The silence is making people crazy. :)

Patriot said...

Sorry USSR, not a word. Like you said the silence is very worrying.

I'd like to think WestEast is right on this but I still don't like it when silence is the rule.

The problem you see is they may be up to something for the benefit of NL but since nobody knows the complete opposite may be true.

It's very scary.

Ussr said...

Sorry for all the Postings Patriot, but I'm starting to think that Williams has finally seen the light in regards to secession from Canada.

I'm just preying.Preying hard that this will be what we have waited for, for far so long.

It whisper'd too, that freedom's ark
And service high and holy,
Would be profaned by feelings dark
And passions vain or lowly;
For, Freedom comes from God's right hand,
And needs a Godly train;
And righteous men must make our land
A Nation once again!

Is it time to start sending money home to a Political Party that will do what needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

From the 1927 Privey Council ruling on the Quebec/Labrador boundary:

"...First, in many of the maps issued after the year 1882, and particularly in the official maps above mentioned and number N 38, 42, and 43, and in maps issued by W. and A. K. Johnston (N. 37) and by Stanford (N 40), the southern boundary of Labrador is shown as running, not from the point where the north and south line drawn from Ance Sablon meets the fifty-second parallel, and in a straight line along that parallel, but from a point where that north and south line would reach the watershed north of the fifty-second parallel, and in a straight line along that parallel, but from a point where that north and south line would reach the watershed north of the fifty-second parallel and along that watershed as far as the head of the Romaine River. A boundary so drawn along that watershed would not doubt be more convenient than one which follows the arbitrary line of the fifty-second parallel, and would have the advantage of throwing into Canada the whole course of the rivers which run into the gulf of St. Lawrence. But their Lordships would not feel justified in adopting a boundary which, however convenient in itself, is not warranted by the terms of the statute of 1825..."

Anonymous said...


Article 2 of the Terms of Union states:

"2. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador shall comprise the same territory as at the date of Union, that is to say, the island of Newfoundland and the islands adjacent thereto, the Coast of Labrador as delimited in the report delivered by the Judicial Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council on the first day of March, 1927, and approved by His Majesty in His Privy Council on the twenty-second day of March, 1927, and the islands adjacent to the said Coast of Labrador."

Anonymous said...


A great URL for those that like to read.

janfromthebruce said...

I am not an islander, so I am trying to think of political strategy and reasoning of Williams here. Also, the strategy of the Harper govt. And ditto Quebec govt.
We all know that the modes operative of the Harper govt is "to divide and conquer". It has always been a neocon game plan. So here the Harper govt tries to pit Quebec and NFL/Lab prov govts against one another. However, both Que & NDF/Lab share a grievance against the Harper govt concerning the recent budget for reduced equalization transfers.
Although not related they are related and the political play is within this political nesting theory situation.

Anonymous said...