The British Ambassador (Geddes) to the Secretary of State

No. 741

Sir: With reference to the note which you were so good as to address to me on June 30th last,5 informing me that the Secretary of Commerce intended to issue instructions to the Collectors of Customs [Page 293] and other officials concerned to discontinue the privileges accorded to Canadian fishing vessels during the war period, I have the honour to inform you that I am desired by the Government of Canada to address representations in the following sense in this connection to the United States Government, in the hope that they be favourably entertained.

The Canadian Government represent that the conditions and circumstances which led to the granting of these privileges are set forth in the Report of the Canadian–American Fisheries Conference appointed in 1918 to consider a settlement of outstanding fishery questions between Canada and the United States, pp. 4–16.6 This report has been under the consideration of the two Governments since September, 1918. Following its submission, negotiations for a Treaty to settle once for all the long standing fishery disputes between the two countries were entered into, and in October, 1919, a draft Treaty was drawn up.7 Canada expressed her willingness to conclude this Treaty, and only awaited the fixing of a date by the United States Government for signing it. The ex-Secretary of State explained that the delay in fixing such date was due to consultations with some interested persons regarding certain provisions of the proposed Treaty. On the 20th September, 1920, he addressed a note to me8 stating that he would not fail to inform me of the results of the consideration that was being given to a slight amendment to the draft treaty, for which the Canadian Government had asked, and that he would advise me when the United States Government would be prepared to proceed with the signature.

Owing to the Presidential Election then pending, and the change in Government that resulted, the Canadian Government realised that final action on the Treaty would be delayed, but it was anticipated that a further communication on the subject would be received from the United States Government within a reasonable period. In these circumstances, they were surprised to learn that the privileges to Canadian fishing vessels visiting United States ports would be abruptly terminated.

The Canadian Government observe that when the reciprocal privileges were granted in 1918, it was, no doubt, contemplated by the Government of the United States, as well as by that of Canada, that the whole matter would be finally settled by treaty before the termination of the privileges by either country. As a matter of fact, the Canadian Order in Council of the 8th of March, 1918, which conferred the privileges on United States fishing vessels visiting Canadian ports, ceased to be legally effective when the War [Page 294] Measures Act terminated last year, as it was adopted under the authority of that Act. The Canadian Government, however, felt that it would be undesirable to reopen the more than century old fishery disputes, pending the outcome of negotiations for a treaty designed finally to settle them. Hence, these privileges have since been continued to United States fishing vessels without any statutory authority.

The Canadian Government are still of opinion that the best interest of both countries would be served by the proposed Treaty, and they are therefore prepared to conclude it and also to extend the scope of the negotiations.

The unexpected withdrawal by the United States Government of these privileges in the middle of the main fishing season, has resulted in serious inconvenience to certain Canadian fishing vessels. The Canadian Government therefore trust that the United States Government will see its way to restore these privileges, pending the outcome of negotiations for a Treaty.

Should the United States Government not see fit to continue the negotiations for a Treaty or Treaties, or restore the temporary privileges, the Canadian Government will have to consider the withdrawal of all privileges to United States fishing vessels, thus bringing again into operation the provisions of Article 1 of the Treaty of 1818, much though they would regret to revive the old causes of friction that such action would entail.

The Canadian Government would be glad to be favoured with an expression of the views of the United States Government on this whole matter at an early date.

I have [etc.]

(For the Ambassador)
H. G. Chilton