Constitutional Documents

The Constitutional, Legal, and Political History of Newfoundland and Labrador.


18th Century | 19th Century | Early 20th Century | Confederation Era

18th Century

Treaty of Utrecht, 1713

By which France ceded its claim to Newfoundland, with the exception of fishing rights along the coast from Cape Bonavista to Pointe Riche.

Commission Appointing Governor Osborne, 1729

Henry Osborn was the first Naval Governor of Newfoundland, from 1729 to 1731. He was appointed to restore order and defeat the lawlessness that prevailed in the Island at the time. In exercise of the powers granted to him by this Commission, he appointed Magistrates from among the local population to keep the peace during the winter.

Commission Appointing Thomas Graves, 1763

Thomas Graves was appointed Governor of Newfoundland in 1761, and served until 1763. By this Commission Labrador, Anticosti, and the Magdalene Islands were placed under the Government of Newfoundland.

Treaty of Paris, 1763

Treaty ending the Seven Years War by which French fishing rights, guaranteed by the Treaty of Utrecht, were reaffirmed; St.-Pierre and Miquelon were returned to France by Britain; and Spain renounced its claims to the Newfoundland fisheries.

Royal Proclamation, 1763

Placed the coast of Labrador, Anticosti, and the Magdalen Islands under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Newfoundland.

The Quebec Act, 1774

By which Labrador was re-annexed to the Province of Quebec.

Treaty of Paris, 1783

Treaty ending the American Revolutionary War, which granted American fishermen the right to use unoccupied harbours along the "American Shore" of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Treaty of Versailles, 1783

Redrew the limits of the French Shore.

19th Century

The Newfoundland Act, 1809

Made further provisions for the administration of justice, and by Section 14 all of Labrador north and east of Blanc Sablon was re-annexed to Newfoundland.

The London Convention, 1818

Reaffirmed the rights of American fishermen under the Treaty of Versailles, 1783, after the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.

The British North America (Seignioral Rights) Act, 1825

Re-annexed the Lower North Shore and Anticosti to the province of Lower Canada, established the southern boundary of Labrador as the 52nd parallel, and re-confirmed the jurisdiction of Newfoundland over Labrador east and north of Blanc Sablon.

The Newfoundland Act of 1832

An Act of the British Parliament which continued in force several earlier Acts pertaining to Newfoundland, and provided for the appropriation and application of funds raised in the Colony.

Commission Appointing Sir Thomas Cochrane Governor, 1832 (to appear)

Instructions to Sir Thomas Cochrane, 1832 (to appear)

Royal Instructions to the Governor of Newfoundland, 1832 (to appear)

Proclamation defining Electoral Districts, 1832 (to appear)

Lord Durham's Report, 1839 (Extract)

Extracts from the report of Lord Durham on the British North American colonies, in which he mused about the possible incorporation of Newfoundland into a British North American Union.

The Newfoundland Act, 1842

Provided for an amalgamated Assembly with a combined membership of elected and appointed members.

The Newfoundland Act, 1846

The Newfoundland Act of 1842 was, by its Article VIII, to expire on September 1, 1846. This Act continued it in force until September 1, 1847.

The Newfoundland Act, 1847

The Newfoundland Act of 1842 was in force until September 1, 1847. By this Act it was allowed to expire, returning Newfoundland to its pre-1842 constitution. At the same time, Articles I, II, II, and IV of the 1842 Act, dealing with property and residency restrictions on membership in the Assembly, the appropriation of revenues, and simultaneous elections, were made permanent.

Instructions to Governor Darling, 1855

Established the principles of Responsible Government in Newfoundland, whereby the executive authority is responsible to the elected legislature.

The Quebec Resolutions, 1864

The Resolutions of the Quebec Conference of 1864 on the subject of Confederation of the British North American Colonies. Newfoundland attended this Conference, and was represented by Frederick B.T. Carter and Ambrose Shea. Resolutions 2, 9, 12, 17, 33, 34, 62, 63, 64 and 66 contemplated Newfoundland's joining Confederation.

The London Resolutions, 1866

The Resolutions of the London Conference of 1866 on the subject of Confederation of the British North American Colonies. Though Newfoundland did not attend this Conference, Resolutions 2 and 10 provided for its eventual inclusion in the Confederation.

Proposed Terms of Union, 1869

Terms of entry into Confederation proposed by a committee of the Newfoundland House of Assembly.

The Independence Legislative Council Act, 1874

Probited Members of the appointed Upper House, or Legislative Council, from running for election to the Lower House of Assembly without first vacating their seat in the Council.

Letters Patent, 1876

Made permanent the Office of Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Newfoundland "and its Dependencies." Prior to this, the office was reconstituted with the Letters Patent appointing each successive Governor. The Letters Patent also make certain provisions relating to the Executive Council, the Legislative Council, the General Assembly, and the powers of the Governor.

Proposed Terms of Union, 1895 (to appear)

The Quebec Boundary Extension Act, 1898

Purported to extend the boundaries of Quebec to incorporate territory south of the the Grand (Hamilton, Churchill) River attributed to Newfoundland by the Acts of 1809 and 1825. To the extent that this Act attempts to add to Quebec territory that was not part of Canada, it must be considered ultra vires.

Early 20th Century

London Convention, 1904

By which France gave up its fishing privileges on the French Shore in return for compensation and territorial gains in Africa.

Letters Patent, 1905

Modified the Letters Patent of 1876 to provide for the administration of the Government during the absence of the Governor.

The Quebec Boundaries Extension Act, 1912

Purported to extend the boundaries of Quebec to incorporate territory attributed to Newfoundland by the Acts of 1809 and 1825. To the extent that this Act attempts to add to Quebec territory that was not part of Canada, it must be considered ultra vires.

The House of Assembly Amendment Act, 1925

By which women in Newfoundland were granted the franchise. Enthusiasm for this great day for equality should be tempered by noting that the age of electoral majority was set at 25 for women, but remained at 21 for men. Property or income qualifications were also retained.

The Labrador Boundary Decision, 1927

The 1927 decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which laid down the modern boundary between Labrador and Quebec. The issue was referred to the JCPC by Canada, Quebec, and Newfoundland.

Order in Council

Order of the King in Council approving the Report of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the Labrador Boundary Dispute, March 22, 1927.

Extract from the Report of the Royal Commission on Newfoundland, 1933

Commonly known as the Amulree report, it recommended the suspension of self-government and the creation of a Commission of Government to administer the affairs of Newfoundland and Labrador until self-government could, at the request of the people, be restored.

Address of the Legislative Council and House of Assembly, 1933

Struggling under the weight of a heavy debt, the Government of Newfoundland requested that self-government be suspended until the 'Island' could again be self-supporting.

The Newfoundland Act, 1933

Authorized the suspension of the Letters Patent of 1876 and 1905 and provided for the finances of Newfoundland.

Letters Patent, 1934

Suspended Responsible Government and instituted a Commission of Government to administer Newfoundland.

Instructions to the Governor, 1934

Instructions to Admiral Sir David M. Anderson, Governor of Newfoundland at the institution of the Commission of Government.

Proclamation of the Governor, 1934

Proclaimed into force the Letters Patent of January 30th, 1934.

Confederation Era

The National Convention Act, 1946 (Extracts)

Constituted a National Convention to decide what form the future government of Newfoundland should take. It was not a legislature, but rather a sort of constitutional convention, and met from 1946 to 1948. This was the first time provision was made for representation for Labrador in any Newoundland assembly, although until the National Convention Act was amended in July, the Governor had the power to appoint Labrador's delegate (see below). In the summer of 1946, delegates were elected in each electoral district, and the Convention convened in St. John's on September 11th.
This Act was later amended by two other Acts: S.N. 1946, No. 29 (providing for an election in Labrador); and S.N. 1946 No. 45 (providing for the appointment of a Chairman who was not a member of the Convention).

The National Convention (Labrador) Act, 1946

Amended the National Convention Act to provide for the election, rather than the appointment, of a delegate to represent Labrador—the first time Labradorians were ever granted the franchise.

The National Convention (Amendment) Act, 1946 (to appear)

The Referendum Act, 1948 (to appear)

Motion by A.P. Herbert, 1949

A motion circulated in the British House of Commons by Independent M.P. A.P. Herbert, who favoured restoration of Responsible Government to Newfoundland.

Currie v. MacDonald, 1948

The trial and appeal decision in a last-minute attempt to challenge Confederation in court.

Proposed amendment to the Newfoundland Act, 1949

An amendment to the Newfoundland Act proposed by Independent M.P. A.P. Herbert, who had toured Newfoundland and Labrador as part of a delegation from the British House of Commons.

Proposed Newfoundland (Liberation) Act, 1949

A Private Member's Bill drafted by Independent M.P. A.P. Herbert, who favoured restoration of Responsible Government to Newfoundland.

The Newfoundland Act, 1949 and Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada

Brought Newfoundland and Labrador into Confederation as the tenth province.
(Courtesy the Solon Law Archive)

The Labrador Act, 1964

A poorly-drafted provincial statute which attempts to force the recognition of Labrador as part of the province in official documents. It does not officially change the name of the province to 'Newfoundland and Labrador'.

The Newfoundland Additional Financial Assistance Act

Enacted by Parliament in 1966 in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission appointed under Term 29 of the Terms of Union.

Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1987

Added the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland to the denominations which enjoyed the privileges of Term 17.

Henri Dorion on the Labrador Boundary, 1991

Henri Dorion chaired a Quebec government commission in the late 1960s and early 1970s that concluded there was no legal recourse by which Quebec could re-open the Labrador boundary issue. In this testimony before a Quebec National Assembly committee, Mr. Dorion debunks the nationalist myths concerning the boundary issue.
Official version (en français) | Unofficial English translation

Henri Brun on the Labrador Boundary, 1991

Henri Brun is a noted Quebec constitutional scholar, and has written on the subject of Quebec territorial issues. In this testimony before a Quebec National Assembly committee, Mr. Brun states that the position taken by Newfoundland in the Labrador boundary dispute was correct, and that Quebec has no legal recourse in the matter.
Official version (en français) | Unofficial English translation (to appear)

Excerpt from the 1996 Speech from the Throne

An excerpt from the Throne Speech of March 20th, 1996, in which the newly-elected provincial government of Premier Tobin commmitted itself to changing the official name of the province to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Constitution Amendment Proclamation, 1997 (Newfoundland Act)

An amendment to Term 17 of the Terms of Union, dealing with education rights in Newfoundland and Labrador, enacted following a provincial plebiscite in 1995.

Term 17 Amendment, 1998

The amended Term 17 of the Terms of Union, which was enacted following a provincial plebiscite on September 2, 1997. The plebiscite question was: "Do you support a single school system where all children, regardless of their religious affiliation, attend the same schools where opportunities for religious education and observances are provided?"

Proposed Constitutional Amendment, 1999

A Resolution by the Newfoundland House of Assembly to amend the Terms of Union to officially change the name of the Province to "Newfoundland and Labrador", unanimously passed April 29, 1999. It has not yet been passed by the Senate or House of Commons, or been proclaimed by the Governor General.