Labrador Boundary Dispute

On September 25, 2008 · 1 Comments

The boundary between the province of Québec and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is the longest in Canada, extending more than 3,500 kilometres (2,100 miles). Yet, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it has never been officially surveyed or marked on the ground. It has a history of dispute that continues through today.

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The southern boundary was pretty straightforward, running along the 52nd parallel for much of its length. The northern boundary over time became accepted as Cape Chidley on Killiniq Island (now the border of Nunavut with Newfoundland & Labrador). It was the western border — the distance from the Atlantic Ocean inland — that became a major point of contention.

In essence it boiled down to how one defined “the coast of Labrador” for that’s what the British government granted to the Governor of Newfoundland in 1763. Québec maintained that the “coast” was indeed the coast, a narrow strip of land along the shoreline extending inward a mile from the high tide mark. Newfoundland defended a different interpretation. They maintained that within its historical context, “coast” actually meant the height of the land. They believed their territory covered the entire watershed draining into the Atlantic Ocean.

Claims, counterclaims, disputes, and disagreements continued into the Twentieth Century while the actual boundary remained vague. Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada so neither party could force a boundary upon the other. However they both wanted resolution and they agreed to bring the issue before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1927. The Privy Council sided with Newfoundland. The boundary was later cemented into Canadian law as one of the conditions Newfoundland insisted upon when joining the Canadian Confederation in 1949. A brief overview is provided on the Library and Archives of Canada website.

The issue may has perhaps been decided as a point of fact but that doesn’t mean Québec has to like it. As recently as 2007 the Canadian press discussed a map produced by the government of Québec that showed a large chunk of southern Newfoundland as part of Québec. The same claim still appears on Québec’s Official Road Map with the notation “Tracé de 1927 du Conseil privé (non définitif).” That essentially translates to “Plot of the 1927 Privy Council (not final).” Clearly Québec believes the dispute lives on.

On September 25, 2008 · 1 Comments

One Response to “Labrador Boundary Dispute”

  1. […] the most interesting topics while researching other topics, as was the case when I investigated the Labrador Boundary Dispute recently. That thread led me to the unusual significance of Killiniq Island in northeastern […]

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