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The Minister having prepared and furnished directions to Stewart Campbell, Esq., M.P. of Guysborough, Nova Scotia, in accordance with the Minute of Council dated 18th September last, to ascertain accurately the facts in detail of the American fishing business and trade at the various sea-ports of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and their relation to the licensing system, that gentleman is still engaged in making such inquiries, and so soon as his report shall be received it may be found necessary again to refer to the subject. The whole respectfully submitted.
P. MITCHELL, Minister of Marine and Fisheries.
No. 143.-1869, February 2: Letter from Mr. Campbell, M. P., of Guysborough, Nova Scotia, to Hon. Peter Mitchell, Canadian Minister of Marine and Fisheries.
GUYSBOROUGH, N. S., February, 2nd, 1869.
SIR,-With reference to your communication of the 16th September last, on the subject of the operation of the licence system policy embodied in and intended to be enforced by the provisions of the Act for the regulation of fishing and protection of the fisheries, and the Act respecting fishing by foreign vessels, and also in relation to the fishing trade and business generally, I have the honour to inform you that in accordance with your instructions conveyed to me by that communication, I visited the Island of Prince Edward, and the other localities affected by the subject in the months of October and November last, and I now beg to report the following observations bearing upon the general question. I regret that in doing so, I shall not be able to reply seriatim to the several inquiries propounded 228 by you. The difficulty or rather the impossibility of obtaining in the Island the required information, will I hope be regarded as sufficient apology for such deficiency, and the probably less satisfactory shape which this communication will consequently assume. I trust however that even in its present form, it will not be without some value.
The principal source of inconvenience and grievance on the part of the British traders and subjects generally in the Maritime Provinces, who are connected with the fisheries is to be found in the great change of circumstances brought about by the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty. During the existence of that treaty, the entire freedom with which that branch of industry, represented by the fisheries, was pursued on the part of the subjects of the United States of America on the coasts of the British Provinces, naturally brought these foreigners into most intimate business relations with merchants, traders, and others in many localities of the maritime portion of the Dominion, and especially at and in the vicinity of the Strait of Canso. The great body of the large fleet of American fishermen, numbering several hundred vessels, which annually passed through that Strait to the Gulf of the St. Lawrence in the prosecution of the fisheries, and especially the mackerel fishery, was invariably in the habit of procuring much of the requisite supplies for the voyage at the several ports in that Strait. The business thus
created largely benefited not only those directly engaged in commercial pursuits, but was also of immense advantage to other classes of the inhabitants of several of the adjacent counties of Nova Scotia. The constant demand for, and ready disposal at remunerative prices to the American fishing vessels, of a large quantity of farm produce, and other products of industry in the shape of barrels, hoops, lumber, wood, &c, was at once the character and result of the intercourse which subsisted during the existence of the Reciprocity Treaty. The total exemption from duty of all fish exported from the Maritime Provinces to the markets of the United States was also a boon of inestimable value to the very large class of British subjects directly and indirectly connected with our fisheries and its resulting trade. This state of things, which was beneficial also in no small degree to the subjects of the United States, undoubtedly created a condition of general prosperity and contentment among the classes of British subjects referred to, such as had never previously existed.
On the termination of the Reciprocity Treaty in 1866, by the Act of the Government of the United States, both parties, viz.: the subjects of Great Britain and those of the United States were remitted to their respective former status under the terms and provisions of the London Convention of October 20th, 1818, and the several Colonial enactments based on, and in accordance therewith, supplemented by such exceptional rights in favour of foreign fishing vessels as the licence system or policy has created and conferred. To that status I beg now to advert. And first with regard to the rights of American fishermen under the Convention of 1818, although no small amount of official correspondence and even controversy between Great Britain and the United States has taken place on this subject, particularly previous to the Treaty of Washington, 1854, commonly known as the Reciprocity Treaty, the right of American fishermen to participate in the fisheries on the Coasts of British North America are very clearly defined by the latter part of the first Article of the Convention of 1818; "And the United States hereby renounce for ever any liberty heretofore enjoyed or claimed by the inhabitants thereof to take, dry, or cure fish, on or within three marine miles. of any of the coasts, bays, creeks, or harbours of His Britannic Majesty's Dominion in America, not included within the above mentioned limits." (The limits here referred to are specified in the same Article, and have no application to the matter in hand) "provided however that the American fishermen shall be admitted to enter such bays or harbours for the purpose of shelter, and repairing damages therein, of purchasing wood and of obtaining water, and for no other purpose whatever. But they shall be under such restrictions as may be necessary to prevent their taking, drying, or curing fish therein, or, in any other manner whatever abusing the privileges hereby reserved to them."
Notwithstanding the just and indisputable construction of the terms of this Article by Her Majesty's Government, to the effect that the Government of the United States have thereby renounced the right of fishing not only within three miles of the Colonial shores, but also within three miles of a line drawn across the mouth of any British bay or creek, and although Her Majesty's Government is advised that American vessels engaged in fishing, might be lawfully excluded from navigating the Strait of Canso, yet as I apprehend,
it is not the desire of Her Majesty's Government, or of the Government of this Dominion, to either waive or enforce the more extensive but legal construction of the Article already cited in the foregoing respects, the policy of granting American subjects the liberty to fish within three miles of the Colonial shores, and the conditions upon which such liberty is to be permitted, became, on this branch of the subject, questions of very serious moment, and entitled to very serious and mature consideration. Upon the first of these points, I think I may assume that both the Imperial and Dominion authorities, entertain no other idea than that of insisting, under any circumstances, upon the absolute right to exclude American fishermen from any free participation in the inshore fisheries. Any other policy would, I conceive, under existing circumstances be unjust and suicidal, particularly in view of the impositions of the United States Government upon British caught fish, and would certainly eventuate in general dissatisfaction of the most aggravated kind. I trust therefore that it is unnecessary to dwell upon this point. Upon the second, viz.: The conditions upon which, if permitted, the liberty to fish is to be enjoyed by the subjects of the United States, difference of opinion may no doubt exist, and the character and form of those conditions are of course subject to question. The experience of the past may, in this particular as in others, be a guide for the present. I shall therefore examine the operation of the licence system during the last three years, and present the results. In 1866, the tonnage duty under that system was 50 cents per ton. In 1867 was $1.00 per 229 ton, and in 1868, $2.00 per ton. In 1866 about eight hundred vessels were engaged in the fisheries of the Gulf and River St. Lawrence, of which number, 454 took out licences, the aggregate amount of tonnage dues paid by them being $13,016.85. In Nova Scotia there were 354 licences issued, the collections on which amounted to $9,368.50. In Prince Edward Island 89 licences were taken out, and dues paid to the amount of $3,339.35. Only 10 licences were taken out in the late Province of Canada, the payment on which was $296. But one was issued in New Brunswick, yielding $13, and none were granted in Newfoundland.
In 1867, in Canada and New Brunswick no licences were issued. In Nova Scotia the whole number issued was 269. The amount received therefor was $13,929. This amount is proportionably greater in consequence of the double rate or [of] $1 per ton, as against 50 cts per ton in the previous year. The actual diminution in the number of licences may be regarded as owing in some measure to the practice of giving three warnings to intruders, before enforcing acceptance of licence, or making seizure.
In 1868, 49 American fishermen took out licences in Nova Scotia, the tonnage dues on which at $2, per ton amounted to $4,691.50. The diminution in this year of the number of licences accepted, is attributed to the high rate of the tonnage duty. From personal observation and inquiry I am disposed to charge it to another but additional reason, and that is the exemption from all restrictions practically enjoyed by American fishing vessels at the several ports and on the shores of Prince Edward Island. In this connexion 1 would submit the very strange and startling fact that only five or six licences were issued by the Island authorities in the past year. Free fishing upon grounds within the most liberal interpretation of the
phrase "prohibited limits" was the rule and not the exception. This unquestionably passive toleration on the part of the Island authorities is certainly quite inconsistent with the arrangements entered into with regard to the mutual adoption of the licence system and the exaction of a similar rate of tonnage dues between the Government of the Island, and that of Canada.
On the assumption that the policy of exacting tonnage dues from the American fishermen for the privilege of fishing in British waters, will be continued for the present, the question naturally presents itself, at what amount such exaction should be placed. The statistics of the last three years show a decided diminution in the acceptance of licences by the Americans in proportion to the increase of duty payable thereon; and I am strongly of opinion that henceforth it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to induce them to accept licences, unless the dues be placed at the lowest rate yet exacted. I derive this view from personal intercourse with many of the parties concerned; and even in their submission to that rate, I might be disappointed, if the authorities of Prince Edward Island continue practically to encourage the refusal to take licences from the authorities of the Dominion, by permitting on the shores, within the jurisdiction of that Island, the free fishing to which I have already adverted. There is, I am aware, a considerable class of persons, who advocate a continuance of the present high, or even a higher rate of duty as the condition of licence. But it must be borne in mind that in the present state of this question a high rate of duty means efficient protection and its accompanying expense. Without that efficient protection, licences at any rate, exceeding a nominal amount, and I consider 50 cents per ton to be an amount of that character, will not be accepted. And this brings me to the consideration of the nature and character of such protection. I would be the last man to utter a word or write a line that could be construed as a matter of reproach towards the Imperial naval authorities, in respect of their services on this point, but the facts of the case compel me to say that I cannot regard with favour the present system of the protection of the fisheries. The inefficiency of the protection now afforded may be attributed to two causes. In the first place, Her Majesty's ships are sent on this service at too late a period in the fishing season. It is during the months preceding the fall of the year that their presence on the fishing grounds is most required. Later in the season the fish resort to deeper water, and are to be found outside of the prohibited limits. Protection therefore is not then necessary. As an illustration of the habits of the fish, as well as of the necessity of the vessels engaged in the protection of the fisheries being on the ground at an earlier period, I may mention that I was credibly informed, when at Georgetown, Prince Edward Island, by an eye witness of the fact, that in the month of August last an entire fleet of about 100 sail of American fishermen had actually and very successfully fished for several days, without interruption, in the land-wash near Rustico, on the North side of the Island, of course to the great insult and detriment of British subjects residing there. I was also given to understand that Her Majesty's ships Niger and Barracoutta, detailed as the protective force during the last season, did not reach the shores of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island until the beginning of the month of October. In the
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second place, the vessels ordinarily employed on this service are of considerable size and being steamers, their approach is readily discerned by actual intruders and thus time is afforded for escape. It is a remarkable fact that not a single seizure has been made during the season.
The conclusions suggested by the foregoing state of facts are very intelligible. If the present high or any higher rate of tonnage dues is to be continued, and in view of the hostility which such exactions will undoubtedly induce, the water police to be provided, must be of corresponding power of control, and perfect good faith, material aid and activity on the part of the authorities of Prince Edward Island must be demanded. As I have already intimated, the force now provided seems of a character ill-calculated to answer the purpose for which it is designed. Upon a careful consideration of the subject, and having conferred with many persons whose opinions are entitled to weight, I am led to entertain the opinion that the aid of H. M. ships of the class now in use might to some extent be dispensed with. A single vessel of war discreetly stationed in the vicinity of the principal fishing grounds, say alternately at Port Hood, Cape Breton, and Georgetown, Prince Edward Island, 230 and perhaps an additional port to the north-ward of the Island, from the first of July to the tenth of November, would be sufficient, if in connection with her and subject to proper communication with her Commander, four or five fast-sailing schooners of similar size and appearance to the ordinary class of American fishing vessels, with a commissioned officer, and sufficient crew, and duly armed, were appointed to cruise during the above mentioned period within the points embracing the fishery rights of the Dominion. The expense of such a force is easy of ascertainment, and it would no doubt be considerable. This however would be met to some fair extent by the revenue from dues, and possibly by a share of seizures. This suggestion is predicated upon the exaction of what may be termed a high rate of tonnage dues. If on the other hand the nominal rate of 50 cents per ton as hereinbefore stated, and which is more as an explicit acknowledgment of our right than as an equivalent for the privileges conceded, be sanctioned. I feel well assured that although the revenue derived would be of smaller amount, yet the force necessary to ensure its collection might be of a very inferior, and consequently less expensive description, while the national bitterness which this question is daily engendering, would be largely averted.
And here I may offer some observations as to what in my judgment would be the probable effects of dealing with the American fishermen in the more liberal spirit of cheap licences. In a former part of this communication I have referred to the active and advantageous business relations subsisting between them and the merchants, traders, and others, in the Eastern Counties of Nova Scotia, and particularly at the Strait of Canso, during the existence of the Reciprocity Treaty, and pointed out the very prosperous condition of our own people during that period. Much depression has prevailed since its abrogation, caused principally by the exaction of a higher rate of tonnage dues, which has induced the Americans to transfer their former business relations to Prince Edward Island, where the terms of the Convention of 1818 are practically permitted to be unrecognized. The