March 4, 1924
The modern boundary argument between Newfoundland and Labrador over who rightfully owned Labrador (Quebec or Newfoundland) began in 1902, when the Newfoundland government granted a lumber company license to harvest trees on both sides of the Hamilton River (now called the Churchill River). The Quebec government considered the southern part of the river to be part of Quebec, and complained to Canada’s secretary of state. Newfoundland refused to cancel the license.
On March 4, 1924 Prime Minister Walter S. Monroe of Newfoundland proposed to sell Labrador to Quebec for $15 million provided that Newfoundland would retain rights to a three mile wide coastal zone for the use of fishermen.
Quebec’s Premier Taschereau declined Monroe’s offer to sell Newfoundland’s interests in Labrador. The Quebec leader saw no reason to pay for what he believed already rightfully belonged to his province and decided to take his chances with the Privy Council resolution to the dispute.
Deliberations began in October of 1926 with P.T. McGrath from Newfoundland making the case for the province. In 1927 the Privy Council decided in Newfoundland’s favour, a verdict accepted by Canada.
In the course of our history Newfoundland has made at least four separate attempts to sell Labrador to Canada. The only reason that there was no deal was that Canada would not pay the price Newfoundland asked.
The first offer was made in 1922, during Richard Squires’s first term as prime minister. A year later, in 1923, William Warren, the newly elected Prime Minister of Newfoundland made another approach to Canada.
Prime Minister, Walter S. Monroe, saw little potential in Labrador, he told the House of Assembly “this country (Newfoundland) will never be able to develop it.”
Sir Richard Squires and his colleagues turned again to Ottawa late in 1931, a formal offer to sell Labrador for $110 million was again rejected.
Imagine if Canada had accepted. No Churchill Falls, or Lower Churchill, the extensive mineral deposits in Western Labrador, Iron Ore, Nickle, Voisey’s Bay. Would Canada have wanted us in 1949 if we were not bringing these resources?
Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives read MG 8, the papers of Sir. P.T. McGrath which consist of textual and cartographic records compiled by P.T. McGrath in preparing the Newfoundland Government’s arguments in the Labrador Boundary Dispute (1906-1926). The fonds is composed of correspondence, transcripts, memoranda, affidavits, research materials, maps and legal proceedings.