When Jacques Cartier sailed along the coast of Labrador on his first voyage to Canada in 1534, he described it as “the land God gave to Cain.” He felt there was a more promising future for the New World a few days later when he discovered Prince Edward Island.
Today, Labrador would be too rich a gift for the most deserving man in the world. Billions of dollars are being poured in to develop its mineral resources, especially iron ore. Newfoundland, which took over Labrador on March 1, 1927, by a decision of the Privy Council in Britain, earns $10 million a year in royalties from te iron ore alone. Electric power from the Churchill River in Labrador is to supply industries in eastern Canada and the United States and may even help to light New York. There is a waterfall on the Churchill 245 feet high, and the plan is to converge the river so that there will be a drop of 1,040 feet. It will provide 4,700,000 horsepower of electricity, twice as much as the output of Grand Coulee, the biggest producer in the United States.
The story of Labrador belonging to Newfoundland and not to Quebec is long and complicated. Newfoundland fishermen used the Labrador coast from the earliest days, and when France handed Canada over to ‘Britain’ by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Newfoundland’s claims to Labrador were recognized. The boundary was supposed to be determined by watersheds of rivers running to the ocean. It was the same ambiguous kind of definition that caused difficulties between New Brunswick and Maine for many years.
After periods of recurring disputes, the problem was handed to the Privy Council in Britain in 1921. No decision had been made by 1925, and Newfoundland offered to sell Labrador to Quebec for $30 million. Since the United States had bought Louisiana from Napoleon for $27 million, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Premier Taschereau turned down the offer. Two years later the Privy Council made its decision. The boundary between Newfoundland and Quebec is still the same today, although Quebec disputes it.
To learn more about this topic, I suggest a few sites, such as, The Labrador Boundary Decision, an old GeoCities site that is archived by the oocities.org, and for a really interesting article about “a look back at attempts to sell Labrador”, you should go to The Compass.
- ‘Our little community’s dying’: Isolation forces Newfoundland town to ask province for ‘resettlement’ (news.nationalpost.com)