Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on the constitutional amendment which officially changes the name of the province of Newfoundland to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This might be a symbolic change but it is a very important and substantive one in my view.
I congratulate the Minister of Industry, Newfoundland's regional minister, for having taken the initiative to implement the change. He started the process back when he was premier of Newfoundland and today we see the culmination of that initiative. I support him and congratulate him on having taken that initiative.
Let me congratulate also my colleague the member for Labrador. He spoke very eloquently today about Labrador and its beauty, culture and people, and well he should speak well of the people of Labrador. He is the first native born member from Newfoundland to come to the House of Commons. I congratulate him on that. He is a good member for Labrador and one whom I am very pleased to work with on this matter.
Anyone who has lived in Labrador knows its beauty and culture. And the people of Labrador, what fine people they are. The regional minister from Newfoundland lived in Labrador for a number of years as did I. The member for Labrador belongs to one of the most beautiful parts of our province.
The territory we know as Labrador was awarded to Newfoundland in 1927 by the British privy council. Both the island of Newfoundland and Labrador changed hands between the British and the French on many different occasions during the history of the European settlement in North America. Labrador eventually ended up as part of Newfoundland.
In the early part of the 20th century it was generally understood that Newfoundland owned the coast of Labrador. However the governments of Newfoundland and Canada, which at that time represented the province of Quebec, could not agree on just how far inland the coast extended. At the time both Canada and Newfoundland were dominions within the British empire. That meant they both ran their own domestic affairs but the British privy council in London had the final say over foreign affairs and disputes between the two dominions.
Newfoundland had previous experience going up against Canada in London at the beginning of the 1890s. It was not a positive experience. The Newfoundland colonial secretary Sir Robert Bond negotiated a free trade fisheries deal with the American secretary of state Mr. Blaine. The Bond-Blaine treaty as it came to be known raised the ire of Canada's maritime provinces. The maritime provinces were upset that Newfoundland had done an end run around them and had gained duty free access to American markets for its fish products. Ottawa took the matter up with the British privy council in London and in 1891 London quashed the treaty.
Canada even at that time was not familiar with free trade but Newfoundland back in the 1890s had negotiated a free trade agreement with the Americans called the Bond-Blaine treaty. It was in that context that Canada and Newfoundland, unable to settle on the Canada-Newfoundland boundary in Labrador, put that dispute to the judicial committee of the British privy council.
This time the privy council came down in Newfoundland's favour. It ruled that the word “coast” meant territory from the beach to the height of the land in the interior. That accounts for the highly erratic nature of the Quebec-Labrador boundary. It skips across the tops of the hills and the mountains in the interior of Labrador. That is how Labrador became a part of the Dominion of Newfoundland back in 1927. Labrador was part of Newfoundland when it became Canada's 10th province in 1949.
I have no hesitation in supporting an official name change that reflects a reality that has existed since 1927. When this resolution passes, and I believe it will probably get the unanimous support of the House, the province of Newfoundland becomes the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This will officially recognize Labrador's status in the province with its own unique geography, culture and history.
Now that our federal minister has made that change and its name is secure, I sincerely hope he will make a few more changes for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have spoken to him on a number of occasions here in the House on the equalization and health care issues for Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the St. John's harbour cleanup which is very important to the people of St. John's.
The minister has been able to make a change to the Constitution of Canada to reflect the name of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Hopefully he will be able to make a few more changes which will be just as substantive as this one today. We support including Labrador in the official name of the province. We remind the minister that there are many pressing problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador which he has to deal with as well.
Three cheers for the minister for having made this change, but let us not confuse anyone who may not be aware of our history. We have owned Labrador since 1927; there is no question about that. In 1927 the privy council awarded Labrador to Newfoundland. The Government of Canada confirmed it and supported it as well. The resolution simply and officially makes the long overdue name change to reflect what happened back in 1927. Any individual or province who was not aware of that before is certainly aware of it now.
I thank the minister for his initiative.