February 11, 1915

LIB

Charles Marcil

Liberal

Hon. CHARLES MARCIL:

Mr. Speaker, will you allow me, on this motion, to ask a question of my hon. friend the Minister of Marine and Fisheries (Mr. Hazen) of some urgency to my constituency? I intended doing so yesterday, but the sudden adjournment of the House prevented me. It is regarding the issuing of licenses for salmon fishing in the tidal waters of Quebec. There is some doubt existing as to whether these licenses are to be issued by the provincial Government or by the Ottawa Government. Notices have appeared in the Canada Gazette and in the Quebec Gazette and I have received a number of letters on the point. I would ask the minister if he would kindly tell us how the matter stands.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   QUEBEC FISHING LICENSES.
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CON

John Douglas Hazen (Minister of Marine and Fisheries; Minister of the Naval Service)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. J. D. HAZEN (Minister of Marine and Fisheries):

My hon. friend, with

the courtesy which always distinguishes him, intimated to me yesterday that he would ask this question, and I had prepared a little statement so that the facts might be absolutely accurate. In 1898, in a reference known as the Fisheries Reference, to the Privy Council, a decision was given to the effect that whatever property interests in the fisheries were held by the different provinces prior to Confederation remained vested in them subsequent to it, but that the exclusive power to legislate or make regulations govering the conduct of the fisheries is vested in the Federal Government. As soon as that decision was given, or immediately afterwards, all the provinces that are sea-washed and have fisheries claimed the fisheries, not only in the tidal as well as the non-tidal portions of all the rivers, but in the bays and in the three-mile limit as well. The officers of the department in Ottawa, however, contended that, while there was no question about the non-tidal fisheries being owned by the provinces, in tidal waters, no matter where situated, there is a public right of fishery controllable only by the Federal Government and Parliament.

At the time it was hoped that the outstanding question of jurisdiction in tidal waters could be settled amicably, and all the provinces affected, except Quebec, agreed that pending a settlement of such question the Federal Government should continue to administer the fisheries in tidal waters as theretofore. It was finally arranged with Quebec that, pending such settlement, the jurisdiction of the fisheries on the south side of the river and gulf of St. Lawrence, and on the north side west of Point des Monts, would be handed over to the province, while the Federal Government would continue to administer the fisheries east of Point des Monts.

The negotiations with the provinces took much longer than was anticipated, and in 1908 British Columbia decided to act on the assumption that it possessed the property interests in the fisheries in tidal waters, and consequently started to require licenses from fishermen before they would be allowed to operate therein.

There were negotiations and finally a reference of certain questions to the court was agreed to with British Columbia, and these questions were so framed as to decide the matter in all the other sea-washed provinces. While the reference was with British Columbia, the other interested

provinces, including Quebec, became intervenants. The Supreme Court upheld the contention of the Federal Government on every point and on appeal to the Privy Council the decision of the Supreme Court was fully sustained.

The decision of the Privy Council, in brief, is that there is in tidal waters, no matter where situated, a public right of fishery which is controllable only by the Federal Government.

Following this decision, the Department of the Naval Service took steps to assert the rights which they believed the Dominion possessed in so far as the control of fisheries in tidal waters was concerned and in consequence of this judgment of the Supreme Court and Privy Council the province of Quebec was requested to hand over to the Federal Government the administration of the tidal fisheries which had been handed over to it following the 1898 decision and pending a settlement of the question of right. Quebec declined to do so on the ground that as the reference was with British Columbia alone the judgment did not apply to that province, that Magna Charta does not apply in Quebec, and that there is no public right of fishery in the waters of Quebec. There was a good deal of correspondence between the department and the government at Quebec and it was pointed out in reply that while the issue was confined to British Columbia the Privy Council laid down certain principles of public law which apply to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Quebec equally as well as to British Columbia. During the course of the correspondence it was intimated in a letter written by the deputy minister to either the Deputy Minister or the Minister of Mines and Colonization in Quebec that if the province desired to enter into negotiations on the question we would be prepared to do so as we were acting under what we believed to be our absolute right under the law and we were willing to concede to Quebec the credit of doing the same thing. As the question must clearly be settled some way or other, we were willing to have a case stated and a further reference made to the courts so that there might be no further question about the matter -and that the question should be settled as it must be settled one way or the other. We said that we were prepared to discuss the matter, but as there was no suggestion of favourable consideration of this course, the Federal Government decided that the only

course open to it was to carry out the law as laid down by the Privy Council. Consequently, the department issued a notice-stating that during the next fishing season licenses would be granted by the Federal; Government to those who were fishing in tidal waters and intimated that any one fishing without such a license would be prosecuted and prevented from doing so. The Government of Quebec has issued a similar nowe to the effect, I understand, that any one fishing in these waters must first obtain a license from the Province of Quebec. Our department, acting on what we believe to be the decision of the Privy Council-

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   QUEBEC FISHING LICENSES.
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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

In the 1898 or the subsequent case?

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   QUEBEC FISHING LICENSES.
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CON

John Douglas Hazen (Minister of Marine and Fisheries; Minister of the Naval Service)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HAZEN:

The British Columbia caseacting on what we believe to be the decision of the Privy Council, which decision is applicable quite as much to Quebec as to British Columbia, and having also the strong opinion of the Department of Justice to the effect that it is the proper position to take, felt that it was our duty to assert the rights of the Dominion in these tidal waters. I feel, however, that the matter is one in which the province of Quebec honestly maintains the position that it upholds at the present time and that the question will therefore have to be settled in the courts. If there is no agreement in the meantime, next year somebody will be fishing without a license from the Dominion Government, our officers will probably arrest him and have him fined and no doubt an appeal will go to the courts, or it may be taken up in another way through action by the Province of Quebec. It is not desirable that this matter should be left in a state of doubt and uncertainty and it is desirable that a stated case should be placed before the Privy Council as soon as possible. I am pleased to say that since this correspondence took place, within the last day or two, there has been some communication on the subject between the Attorney General of Quebec and the Department of Justice in Ottawa, and there is every reason for thinking that a conference will be held in a short time at which the matter will be discussed between the two Governments and some course taken which is reasonable and proper under the circumstances.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   QUEBEC FISHING LICENSES.
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Motion agreed to, and the House adjourned at 10.15 p.m.



Friday, February 12, 1915.


February 11, 1915