The Borders between Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador

Since at least the premiership of Rene Levesque, the provincial state of Quebec has refused to accept the facts of Quebec’s border with Labrador. Even under the Liberal governments of Jean Charest and Philippe Couillard, the website of the Government of Quebec and its official map of the Province of Quebec insist that “This border is not definitive.” Of course, this is a bit of a tautology: in legal-constitutional reality, this inter-provincial border most certainly is definitive; only Quebec contests it, without a good argument, so only in that flimsy sense is the border “contested” or somehow “not definitive.” But no other provinces within Canada, nor the federal order of government itself, would recognize this territory as in dispute; all acknowledge that it by rights belongs to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Yesterday, Marie-Renee Grondin of Le Journal de Montreal wrote an article about the Parti quebecois’ campaign literature, which uses a false map of Quebec – but, in fairness, this map does conform to what even Liberal governments of Quebec claim.

I can demonstrate the falsity and mendacity of the sovereigntist or nationalist viewpoint, “This border is not definitive,” very easily, through this syllogism.

Maurice Olivier, The British North America Acts and Selected Statutes, 1867-1962 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer of Canada, 1962), 246.

  1. Item 21 of the Schedule of the Constitution Act, 1982 is the British North America Act, 1949 (Newfoundland), which includes Newfoundland and Labrador’s Terms of Union upon joining Confederation.
  2. These Terms of Union and statute define the border between Quebec and Labrador in accordance with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council’s ruling in 1927.

    “The Province of Newfoundland 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.”

  3. Therefore, the borders between the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador form part of the Constitution of Canada and cannot be altered unilaterally on the spurious claim of the National Assembly or Government of Quebec.
  4. Furthermore, the borders between provinces cannot be changed except under section 43(a) of the Constitution Act, 1982, as follows:

43. An amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to any provision that applies to one or more, but not all, provinces, including

(a) any alteration to boundaries between provinces, and

(b) any amendment to any provision that relates to the use of the English or the French language within a province,

may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada only where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies.

  1. The House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador would NEVER cede part of the territory of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador to the province of Quebec under the Section 43(a) Amending Formula, even if the Senate, House of Commons, and National Assembly passed concurring motions annexing to Quebec that part of Labrador.
  2. QED: The Government of Quebec must accept the facts of the Constitution of Canada and the borders of the Province of Quebec – presuming, of course, that it believes in the rule of law.

Even if Quebec seceded from Confederation to become its own independent and sovereign state, its borders would remain the same, as defined by the JCPC ruling of 1927, under the principle of succession of states.

This whole fabricated and illegitimate claim represents nothing more than the Province of Quebec playing make-believe and masquerading as a sovereign, independent state – because most states (including Canada) do engage in territorial disputes.


About J.W.J. Bowden

My area of academic expertise lies in Canadian political institutions, especially the Crown, political executive, and conventions of Responsible Government; since 2011, I have made a valuable contribution to the scholarship by having been published and cited extensively. I’m also a contributing editor to the Dorchester Review and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law.
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3 Responses to The Borders between Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador

  1. Mojo_filter909 says:

    During my poli-sci undergrad at Concordia, I had a prof that had looked at this issue. He had two points I thought I’d mention. One, at the time before Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada, the Government of Quebec and the Legislature of Quebec had not raised or objected to the union with the borders as they were decided by the JCPC ruling. That would have been the time for Quebec to pushes for changes. Two, a really detailed study was conducted in the late 70s or early 80s by the Quebec Ministry of Justice that concluded that the border was 1927 line, and that Quebec had long ago lost its chance to claim it was contested. Extra constitutional means remain an option of course too, and politically the issue serves as useful trope.


  2. Rand Dyck says:

    I didn’t think you had time for extra things like this! If you do, tell me your response to the following message sent to me by a former student:

    “Am i right in understanding that they could delay the election so that the writ is issued on the fourth anniversary of the return of the writ in 2014, which is only about one or two months max”

    I know you are the expert in the date of the Ontario election! LOL




  3. Thanks for writing this. One of my jobs these days is tutoring Canadian-Quebec history in Montreal and I can attest that the same claims as to the lack of certainty about the border between Quebec and Labrador is in the present high school history texts. It’s bothered me ever since I noticed it for the reasons you here so eloquently state.


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