THE decision handed down on March 1 by the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council settled finally the title to the great table lands of the Labrador peninsula, long in dispute between Newfoundland and the Dominion of Canada. The question was not only one of historic interest but also had important economic aspects, as the Labrador spruce forests suitable for pulping are valued at over a quarter of a million dollars, and considerable mineral deposits are also probably hidden there. The decision of the Privy Council in favor of Newfoundland definitely gives that colony territory on the mainland nearly three times the size of its own island.

The dispute turned about the meaning of the word "coast" which appeared in a Commission issued April 25, 1763, by King George III, naming a "Governor of the Island of Newfoundland and of the coast of Labrador." The representatives of Canada contended that the "coast" was limited to a strip of territory a mile wide running from Ance Sablon, on the Straits of Belle Isle, northward to Cape Chidley. Newfoundland claimed that the boundary should run due north from Ance Sablon to the 52nd parallel, there turn west, and then run north along the crest of the water-shed of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic.

The dispute has prevented both Governments from issuing valid titles and has prevented the development of the varied natural resources of the region. But while settling these matters, the decision has awakened considerable discontent in Canada against the custom of appealing to the Privy Council. In fact, one of the members of the Quebec Legislature on March 6 introduced a resolution that "This House is of opinion, in view of the judicial organization of the Dominion and our province, it is important that appeals to his Majesty in Privy Council be abolished and that his Majesty be prayed not to grant any more appeals in grace." British opinion, on the other hand, stresses the value of the Privy Council as an instrument in the pacific settlement of disputes between the self-governing members of the British Commonwealth.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now