Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Labrador Shuffle

The Labrador - Quebec border dispute has been resolved for 93 years. It was sent to the British Privy Council in 1927 by the then Dominion of Canada and the Colony of Newfoundland for binding arbitration. The dispute was initiated over logging rights between the two. In 1927 the Privy Council rendered the following decision:

... a line drawn due north from the eastern boundary of the bay or harbour of the Anse au Sablon as far as the fifty-second degree of north latitude, and from thence westward ... until it reaches the Romaine River, and then northward along the left or east bank of that river and its head waters to the source and from thence due northward to the crest of the watershed or height of land there, and from thence westward and northward along the crest of the watershed of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean until it reaches Cape Chidley.

The decision was clear enough, and is even added to Quebec's official road map, albeit in dotted lines and referred to in brackets as undetermined - see map below. In keeping with Quebec's major political commandment, "everything old is new - if we want it to be", she refuses to recognize this arbitrated decision. Instead, Quebec ignores the westward line of the 52nd degree of north latitude, and places that line much further north encompassing the head waters of the Romaine River - amongst others.
Quebec's strategic blind eye came into focus with the proposed construction of the four dam complex on the Romaine River by Hydro Quebec in 2008. The environmental agencies of the governments of Canada and Quebec conducted mandatory assessments of the impacts of the proposed dams. Yet, despite formal submissions and complaints by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the dams were given the go ahead - with conditions. Unfortunately, none of those conditions included recognizing the legitimate border of Newfoundland and Labrador. The government in St. John's was not even recognized by the Canadian government's own environmental agency as having jurisdiction over the area awarded in the 1927 decision.
This is unforgivable considering the wording of the Terms of Confederation between the Government of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, by which Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to enter into Canada:

1. On, from, and after the coming into force of these Terms (hereinafter referred to as the date of Union), Newfoundland shall form part of Canada and shall be a province thereof to be called and known as the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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.

Not unlike the current federal government's refusal to force Quebec to negotiate a formal maritime border with this province prior to signing an offshore petroleum agreement, the Canadian Environmental Agency simply ignored Newfoundland and Labrador's constitutional rights. The reason - Quebec economic interests. The excuse - Quebec separation. Same as Old Harry is shaping up.

The only way to defeat the sacrificing of Newfoundland and Labrador is to be more determined and more creative than the collective will of Quebec City and Ottawa. It should not be the way it is in a country such as Canada, but it would be foolish to think otherwise. It is within our province's ability to successfully manage both challenges but, that aside, the Government of Canada must be reminded it is the national government and as such has the responsibility of applying the Constitution equally amongst it's citizens. To "cherry pick" the application of law is to invite deep discontent. A further question goes out to the Liberal and NDP members of the House of Commons representing Newfoundland and Labrador federally : Why are you not standing in the Commons and demanding that the federal government recognize the Terms of Confederation and thereby our proper border in Labrador? Why are you not standing in the House and demanding the federal government not grant an offshore petroleum board agreement with Quebec until the proper maritime borders are agreed to? The only federal representation coming from our Mp's seems to be MP Todd Russell who is surveying Labradorians as to whether or not they want the Lower Churchill project built - in seeming conflict with the provincial government here.

The unholy trinity of Quebec separatists, Quebec federalists, and the Federal government must be brought to the realization that Newfoundland and Labrador will not be pushed. Our previous Premier, Danny Williams, ferociously fought for that cause. To his undying credit he refused to let one undermining action go unchallenged as he likely knew all too well that to do so was to invite more of the same - at the cost of our province and her people. Our federal government needs to rediscover the fact that it is a national government, with national responsibilities, and national obligations. The first and foremost of those responsibilities is ensuring all Canadians are treated properly in accordance with their Constitution. To do otherwise is irresponsible, and places the future of the country in peril.

Government of Quebec Official Map - note their idea of the border and
maritime boundary. Actual Labrador border is the dotted line running east
and west on the 52nd.

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