Hon. L. P. BRODEUR (Minister of Marine and Fisheries).
The port of Montreal is that section of the river St. Lawrence extending from Montreal to Port Neuf, and it was originally so defined for the purpose *of construction. All the improvements on the St. Lawrence, as well as the rules of the road and the pilotage authority, were under the control of the Montreal Harbour Uommissioners. Some years ago the Shipping Act was amended to vest the pilotage authority in the Department of Marine, but the Montreal Harbour Commissioners Act was not amended to conform with that and this section proposes to do so. The rules of the road between Montreal and Port Neuf will also be controlled by the Marine Department in future, as they are in all other places in Canada.
I wish to call the attention of the minister to a question that has arisen between the Harbour Commission of Montreal and the lessees of certain lands lying along the Lachine canal. The leases to these lands were granted many years ago. Their western boundary was the canal itself and their eastern boundary the harbour of Montreal. For a long time there was some dispute with respect to the eastern boundary. As long ago as 1873 a conventional line was established, I think by order in council. That conventional line was recognized for years, and from time to time was made the subject matter of orders in council. Recently difficulties have arisen between the lessees and the Department of Public Works.
I think some of the leases were made when Railways and Canals were under the control of the Public Works Department. In 1903 and 1904 there was some dispute with reference to these boundaries, and it will be found that even as late as that date the rights of the lessees to this conventional line were recognized by orders in council. It is claimed by the Harbour Commission that that line should not be the line. Originally the line was irregular, following the windings of _ the stream, but in order to prevent any misapprehension with respect to it and to the changing shores of the stream, the conventional line was established. The commissioners have brought suit against the lessees with respect to the matter, and it would seem to me that if the lessees or their assignees have or have had rights which have been recognized in the past, they should be Tecognized to-day, and there should be no legislation which would change their status in any degree. It occurred to me that possibly this section might in some way affect the status of these lessees, and I think the Department of Marine and Fisheries, in succession to the Department of Public Works, should stand by the action of the department in years gone by, and is in justice and in equity bound to recognize their rights. It seems to me most _ unfair that these parties should be brought' into court after so many years, and after the several departments of the government have treated this conventional line as one that was established for all time, and one that was not to be subject to the whim or the caprice of any commission. I am sorry the Minister of Railways is not in his place at the moment, as his department is particularly interested in the matter. It is a question which I think the Department of Railways and Canals and the Department Marine and Fisheries should jointly take into consideration, and deal with the subject without the assistance of the courts.
It seems to me that this question would rather arise under the next section of the Bill, which defines the limits of the harbour, not under this section, which defines the port. As the hon. member has brought the matter up, I may say that I have had occasion to see the records in the pending litigation, and it certainly does seem to present a case for the consideration of the government. The action of the Harbour Commission is against persons with whom that board made a contract establishing the boundaries of these lots, a contract which I believe was authorized at the time, and was subsequently ratified, by order in council. The position which the Harbour Commissioners now take in attacking the boundary line so established, does seem to me to be one which it
ought to be possible for the government to avoid. This boundary line was established by a deed which is unquestionably valid unless it be set aside on the ground that by it some portion of the ground which formed the harbour was lost to the Harbour Commissioners. The commission take the ground that the piece of land in question, being public property, was not susceptible of being alienated, and therefore that the conventional line fixed for the boundary was illegally fixed. It does seem to me that these parties, who contracted with the Harbour Commissioners, are entitled to stand on the title the)* got. Moreover if I mistake not, that title was passed thirty or forty years ago and they have possessed the property in conformity with it ever since; so that if the matter were one between individuals, they would have a prescriptive right to it. The Harbour Commissioners in addition to repudiating their own contract in order to get rid of this boundary, are reduced to take the position that no prescription can stand against the Crown, ot that the property being public cannot be acquired by prescription. The position is made doubly hard by the fact that in some cases the parties with whom the convention establishing the boundary was made have since sold their property. The present litigation is between the Harbour Commissioners and the present owners; and the people who were the owners at the time of the fixing of the boundary find themselves called in to guarantee and protect their purchasers against the consequences of this action. I have nothing to say as to how far the position taken by the Harbour Commissioners may be legally well taken, but assuming that it is, it seems to me to be a case of considerable hardship on the holders of these properties, who in good faith entered into this arrangement with the Harbour Commission, an arrangement which was at the time ratified by order in council and which has ever since been acted upon. One can readily understand the confusion into which things are going to be thrown if that convention is upset. The gentlemen who entered into the convention with the Harbour Commissioners, actuallv held the property adjoining, between which and the harbour the line was drawn, deriving their title from the government of Canada; and they were entitled to a warranty of the government of Canada to the peaceful possession of their property. The situation is that these people who hold title to their property from the government of Canada, with whom in good faith they entered into a convention to establish the boundaries of that property, now find themselves, by the action of one of the departments of the government, sought to be deprived of that property. It does seem to me to be a case in which 208
the different departments of the government ought to get together and see if it is not proper to Tefrain from disturbing the rights of these people. As I understand, the very narrow ground on which the Harbour Commission is acting is that the government, when it passed the order in council ratifying the conventional line, did a thing which by law it had not a right to do. The case is certainly one deserving of the consideration of the government.
I shall be very glad to bring to the attention of the Harbour Com-misioners of Montreal the statements just made by my hon. friend from Westmoreland and the hon. member for St. Anne's. This matter was never brought before me, because it is a question of internal management, with which we of course never interfere. Of course, neither this section nor the third section refers to the question of the boundaries. We have accepted the boundaries as they were. The Harbour Commission of Montreal is a very old organization, extending as far back I think as the thirties. The boundaries of the harbour were determined by an Act passed 50 ojr 60 years ago, and our intention is not to change the old boundaries; but we are providing in this Bill to extend the jurisdiction of the Harbour Commissioners from Longue Pointe Church to the extreme end of the island.
We do not touch at all the old boundaries of the harbour. From Verdun to Longue Pointe they will be just as they are to-day; but we propose to extend the boundaries from Longue Pointe to the extreme end of the island, so that the question raised by my hon. friend from Westmoreland will not be affected by this legislation. It simply provides that the jurisdiction which the Harbour Commission exercises, extending from Montreal to Portneuf, shall pass to the Minister of Marine and Fisheries, so far as pilotage, the rules of the road and public works are concerned. Since the Minister of Marine and Fisheries has become the pilotage authority, instead of the Harbour Commission, there is no more reason why the rules (of the road should be made by the Harbour Commission for that section of the river, and they are hereafter to be under the control of the minister. With regard to the matter which has been brought to the attention of the House by my hon. friends, I must admit that I am not very familiar with the details of it. I do not think it has been
brought formally before me, but I -have heard some discussion by the former Harbour Commission and probably by the existing Board on that point. If I remember rightly, it is claimed that there has been an encroachment upon part of the property which was under the control of the Harbour Commission. Whether this has been done by leases issued by the department here or not, I am not sure.
I understand that whatever encroachment there has been is in conformity with the deed of the Harbour Commission by which the boundary line was agreed upon. Now the Commissioners come, forty or fifty years afterwards, and say: ' That line did not mark the real limit of the harbour; we gave you by it a bit of the harbour, which we could not legally do, because it was public property, and therefore what we did and what the Governor in Council ratified was null and void,' the resulting situation being that these people, if they had dealt with any private individual, would unquestionably have an absolute valid title to their property both under their deed _ and by prescription, but that they are to be ousted because they have been dealing with the Crown.
I think that the rentals were made first with one of the departments, whether with the Public Works Department or the Railways and Canals I do not know; and that there was after that, or at the same time, an agreement made with the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal. But, as I understand it, the Harbour Commissioners claim that this agreement has not been lived up to by these lessees.
The contention of the Harbour Commissioners, as I understand it, is: Inasmuch as the line was not on
the exact line of the harbour, the effect was to give these lessees property which is part of the harbour, and, as we could not alienate any part of the harbour, the deed did* not convey it, and though you have had possession all this time, you could not prescribe it, because we are the Crown.
I do not know whether there may be other difficulties as to details.
The canal branch, when it was under control of the Department of Public Works, issued certain leases to several lessees respectively, the boundary of the leased property being the western boundary of the harbour of Montreal. Now, under the Act-and if reference is made to it it will be seen that this is correct-the western boundary of the harbour of Montreal followed the western
bank or shore of the river St. Lawrence. And, as it practically worked out, when these lessees came to take possession of their property, a question arose as to exactly where the western shore or bank of the river St. Lawrence was. In order to obviate any difficulty and to set at rest all questions as to where that proper western boundary of the harbour of Montreal was, a conventional line was established in the interest of the department as well of the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal. That conventional line, thus established, was distinctly recognized by order in council on one occasion at least, I think in 1873, and it has been lived up to on the part of the commssioners of the harbour of Montreal and the Department of Railways and Canals respectively, and all subsequent leases issued by the Department of Railways and Canals were based upon that conventional established line. Now, the question arises: The commissioners gave assent to that conventional line