"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Labrador border post, recycled

In response to this yawn-inducing piece of non-news from CBC "News", rather than research and write up a brand new posting from scratch, here, for your reading pleasure, is a September 22, 2006 number called "The Labrador border post", with the following novel front-matter:

1) John Ottenheimer presumably has the same legal and French-language skills he had in September 2006. If he hasn't done so already, he should therefore consult the quite authoritative Rapport de la Commission d'étude sur l'intégrité du territoire du Québec — 3. La frontière du Labrador (a.ka. the Dorion Commission). The full report is available for the Minister's information and interest at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies under the call number FF1029.9 L3 Q75. Dorion's 1991 précis of his findings, in English and French, is available here, along with related documents.

2) Sue, go back to law school, or at very least read the constitutional statutes cited below really really carefully.

3) If Quebec maps which purport to re-draw the Labrador boundary are of legal or evidentiary, what about Newfoundland maps which omit Labrador altogether?

Now on with the re-run.

= = = = = = = = = = ( ) = = = = = = = = = =

It is one of the oldest tricks in the Newfoundland nationalist jingo political playbook:

The Quebec Card.

Whenever you want to engage in some jingoistic sabre-rattling, and are in need of an enemy, an other on which to focus your two-minute hate, just play the Quebec Card.

The ploy has been around for decades.

Shortly before he dramatically collapsed, National Convention delegate, and staunch anti-Confederate Ken Brown, fustigated:

Canada wants Labrador, and she wants Newfoundland. Perhaps the Dominion government is not so interested, or the people at Ottawa, but the Quebec government is, and wants Newfoundland, and thinks today, Mr Chairman, that Labrador should never have been ceded to Newfoundland. [National Convention debates, October 30, 1946]
Or how about that great hero to anti-Confederates past and separatists present, Peter Cashin; he who once offered to sell Labrador:

Peter Cashin, former finance minister and leading proponent of self-rule for Newfoundland, declared in a broadcast Saturday that Canada wants Newfoundland to enter the confederation because the province of Quebec wanted Labrador. [Reuters, August 11, 1947]
Nor was the great anti-Confederate hero above playing the linguistic bigotry card:

Either the people wouild have to find additional revenue in the form of direct taxation, or a deal would have to be made, possible forced upon us, whereby the 110,000 square miles of our Labrador possession would be mortgaged or taken over on a rental basis by the Canadian federal government or by the French Province of Quebec. [National Convention debates, January 8, 1948]
How about this for a bold prediction, again from the great anti-French bigot Cashin?

My object is to simply impress on delegates the hidden significance of this latest move on the part of the premier of French Canada [Duplessis, who was agitating against the Labrador boundary in the press at the time] and to ask fellow delegates to give the matter their serious consideration. Vigilance, it is said, is the price of safety. Let that then be our watchword... You or I may not be here, but you will find if we go into confederation with Canada, that within five years, Labrador will be taken from Newfoundland. [National Convention Debates, December 1, 1947]
Much closer to the mark, on the predictions front, was this one from the Member for Labrador, Rev. Lester Burry:

I feel that we might have more reason to be afraid of losing our Labrador territory not so much from anyone outside taking a hold of it, not so much that Quebec will come and take it from us but perhaps their might be some weakness within our own selves, or in our governments of the future which might succumb to offers made for Labrador and we might lose it in that way. [National Convention Debates, January 13, 1948]
Despite being entrenched even more firmly into law with Confederation than it even had been before, the Quebec bogeyman made a wide target for many years after 1949.

Opposition leader James J. Greene (PC, St. John's East) said it was urgent that the [Labrador] border be determined as soon as possible. He urged the Liberal Government to keep in mind the importance of every square inch of Labrador. [Canadian Press, January 25, 1962]

"It must make a man's blood boil," Mr. Smallwood said, "when he sees, on countless occasions, our great subcontinent or rich and valuable wealth described as part of the 'New Quebec'." He said the reason for the bill was that "we need the world to know." Opposition leader James Greene interjected: "We want one man in Quebec to know". "And that man in Quebec will make no difference," Mr. Smallwood replid. " All he can do is talk. He can do nothing about it." The bill would officially change the name of the province to Newfoundland and Labrador. [Canadian Press, May 16, 1964. The "one man" was then Quebec Resources Minister, René Lévesque.]

Newfoundlanders fear they may lose Labrador to Quebec through quiet infiltration, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was told [in St. John's] last night. Some speakers at a general meeting said French Canadians may form up to 70 per cent of the Labrador population in a few years and either seek union with Quebec or status as the 11th province of Canada. [Canadian Press, June 9, 1964]
As recently as 1999, Danny Williams' The Party was playing the Quebec Card for its own crass political purposes:
MR. OTTENHEIMER: My questions this afternoon are for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I know he is on top of his job, so therefore he must be aware of a new glossy brochure called The Territory and a new map of Quebec, produced by the Government of Quebec, which includes a large part of southern Labrador in the Province of Quebec. Has the government protested this claim on our territory directly to Quebec and to the Government of Canada? I would ask the minister to table those letters protesting this act, along with the responses from
both Quebec and Ottawa.

MR. NOEL: As the member well knows, the border between Quebec and Newfoundland is recognized by both provinces. We are content with the level of recognition that exits. Obviously from time to time some questions are raised by particular individuals. I am not specifically aware of the one that the member raises today. I will look into it and have a further answer for him in the near future.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: Following Question Period, I will e pleased to show both a map and brochure, one dated 1998, one dated 1999, both official government documents which make quite clearly the point that I raised earlier. It is a serious matter, I say, Mr. Minister. Quebec is building a legal case by openly claiming ownership of our territory. Every time our government fails to reject and protest Quebec’s claims, we build credibility for their case. Some court, somewhere, some time, may be influenced by the history of Quebec’s persistence in claiming our land and our failure to do anything about it.I ask the minister: Why are you so silent, as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs? Why are you and why is this government afraid to stand up to the Province of Quebec?

MR. NOEL: Mr. Speaker, our Province has not been silent on this issue when it has been necessary to be vocal, but we do not feel that it is necessary to be very vocal at this particular time because we think that the border is recognized by all Canadians, by the Government of Quebec. I think the Premier of Quebec, just a few days ago, indicated that the border between his province and our Province is not in question. There is no serious disagreement about that border. From time to time the question is raised by various interests. From time to time we see certain publications that we would prefer would be printed other than they are; but, if we at any time feel that there is a serious issue that has to be dealt with, it will be dealt with. At the present
moment we are quite content with the recognition of the boundary that exists in the country.

MR. OTTENHEIMER: I say to the minister, he should really treat this issue much more seriously. Both of these official documents clearly speak for themselves. How can this government keep on doing business with a province that claims our territory, does not recognize our laws, has captured almost all of the benefits from our resources in Labrador, and uses its overwhelming influence in Ottawa to deny federal support for our rights and interests as a Province? How do you continue to do business in this manner, Mr. Minister?

MR. NOEL: Mr. Speaker, I think that recent events will indicate that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is doing excellent business with the Province of Quebec. We do not feel that there is any credible question raised about the border. I will look into the couple of specific instances that the member has cited to satisfy his mind and to make sure that he has a peaceful and happy Christmas.
The exchange was followed up with a suitably ominous press release:
Legal implications of ignoring Québec maps claiming Labrador territory

ST. JOHN'S, December 14, 1999 — Opposition Justice critic John Ottenheimer is urging the Tobin government to challenge the latest publications of the province of Québec whose maps claim the southern Labrador boundary is in dispute and part of Labrador may belong to Québec.

Ottenheimer said there is a danger in leaving such longstanding claims unchallenged, that a court at some future date may view the lack of response on Newfoundland and Labrador's part as a tacit recognition of the legitimacy of Québec's claim. At the very least, it could lend legitimacy to the notion that the boundaries of Labrador are in question rather than firmly resolved, he said. "By not protesting, we enhance their case," he said. "In a court of law, our silence on this issue can speak volumes."

Ottenheimer questioned Intergovernmental Affairs minister Walter Noel on the matter in the legislature Tuesday and expressed concern that the minister dismissed the issue as trivial.

"Both these official documents speak for themselves," Ottenheimer said. "It is unseemly of this province's government to carry on business-as-usual, without protest, with a government that has not only benefitted tremendously from our resources at our expense and denied us basic interprovincial rights that other provinces readily grant to one another, but has then had the audacity to claim our territory as its own."
And was carried in the Telegram the next day:
Quebec maps claiming Labrador cause for concern: Ottenheimer
Deana Stokes Sullivan
The Telegram
December 15, 1999

St. John's East MHA John Ottenheimer is urging the Newfoundland government to take a stand to stop Quebec from claiming part of Labrador in its promotional materials.


Showing the materials to reporters outside the legislature, Ottenheimer said the brochure printed in 1998 shows an ``obvious encroachment'' into Labrador, while the map dated 1999 includes a notation, "the 1927 boundary of the privy council (not definitive)."

"So it's a clear expression of what Quebec wants to espouse with respect to its territorial rights and I'm concerned, as a Newfoundlander," said Ottenheimer.

"This government has to take serious these sorts of presentations by a neighbouring province."
But as with so many other things, Danny and his The Party, in power, sing a different tune. As Chairman Dan told the Telegram, quoting him on May 28 of this year:
"I don't even understand why it's being raised ... the boundary is not an issue for us," Williams told The Telegram. "Every so often it will come up on a Quebec map showing the border being wrong, but from our perspective it's not a concern. [...] I wouldn't even raise it - by just raising it, with all due respect, even doing articles on it just acknowledges maybe there is an issue here, in the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."
And for once, you know, Chairman is right: All the maps in the world do not change the fact that the boundary was set in 1927 and entrenched in 1949; or that to change it would require very specific procedures, set out in the 1871 British North America Act and the 1982 Constitution Act, procedures which require the consent of the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature. To suggest, as the conspiracy theorists and francophobes do, that Quebec's silly map tricks have any legal bearing, is to concede an important point and to beg the question: "Does Quebec have a legal claim, or even a possibility of one, to Labrador or any part thereof?"

The answer, as both Danny Williams and John Ottenheimer, with their legal backgrounds, will well know, is that Quebec absolutely does not. And with his French language skills, Ottenheimer should also read, if he hasn't already, the report of Quebec's own Dorion Commission, which concluded that the Labrador boundary issue is a hopeless cause for Quebec. Even Jacques Parizeau and Lucien Bouchard have conceded, quietly, that this is the case. Chairman is legally and politically right to be dismissive. Taken together, s.3 of the 1871 British North America Act, Terms 2 and 3 of the Terms of Union, and s. 43 of the 1982 Constitution Act, mean that the Labrador boundary absolutely cannot be changed in any way, other than in the ways those statutes set out: with the express approval of the House of Assembly in St. John's.

And yet the question remains: why does this question keep coming up? why is it given so much more credence in Newfoundland than it has been given in Quebec these past two or three decades? why does it find such a receptive audience? and why, knowing what they know, did the provincial Tories of Danny Williams and John Ottenheimer make hay out of it in opposition?

The Labrador boundary "problem" is perhaps the best example of a danger that Chairman Dan faces. His brief political career, in opposition and in government, has consisted far too much and far too often of playing into and playing up the many myths which make up the political orthodoxy of the soft white underbelly of Newfoundland politics. His actions and rhetoric are deliberately and consistently geared towards ratcheting up the Newfoundland nationalism, creating enemies to hate, and casting doubt on Canada and the idea of Confederation.

"They" — you are to say it with a sneer — are out to get us. "They" are out to rip us off. "They" ≠ "us". They : bad. Us : good.

One day it's Quebec and its "claim" to Labrador. Next it's the federal government collecting all our resource revenues. Then the foreigners are taking all the fish. Short, snappy headlines, meant to generate negative, visceral, emotional reactions, facts be damned.

After all, who needs fact when you have unbridled outrage and the power of VOCM to act as its echo chamber?

So herein lies the danger: what happens when you play into those myths, and when you play them up, so early, so hard, and so often, that they get away from you? What happens when you are a large part of having the public believing things, rightly or, for the most part, wrongly, which may in fact hinder your own agenda or undermine your reputation as the Scrapper, the Great Negotiator, the Fighting Newfoundlander?

What happens if the Newfoundland nationalist myths grow larger, and become more entrenched, than you can control? What if they set the agenda, instead being part of yours? What happens when they paint you, your reputation, your government, your electorate, and your society, into a corner?

Loyola Hearn, who fustigated against those dem furriners for nine years in federal opposition, and years before in his provincial career, is starting to learn that lesson. One of his teachers will, without a doubt, be the Premier.

But Chairman Dan's turn to learn, whether he wants it to or not, will yet come.


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