The Ambassador in Canada (Woodward) to the Secretary of State

restricted air priority
No. 1098

Subject: Leases for Communications Sites

Upon receipt of the Department’s Instruction on this subject1 the Embassy forwarded to the Department of External Affairs on February 21 a Note2 summarizing the request of the United States for approval by the Government of Canada of proposals to construct communications facilities in Newfoundland and to lease certain lands in that connection.

The Embassy’s Note included the following paragraph:

“In order to facilitate the detailed arrangements which may be necessary, it is requested that the necessary authority be granted by the Government of Canada to permit the United States Northeast Command, together with the Chief of the United States Army Engineers, to assist the Government of Canada in acquiring the privately owned lands involved. It is proposed that these lands, together with [Page 872] the Crown lands included in the sites, be leased to the United States under authority of Article XXVII of the 1941 Leased Bases Agreement, which provides that the United States may acquire supplementary leases, that the conditions of the 1941 Leased Bases Agreement be made applicable to the additional areas to be acquired near Ernest Harmon Air Force Base and Pepperrell Air Force Base, and that tenure run for the balance of the existing 99 year lease. The approval of this proposal by the Government of Canada is requested together with permission for the United States Air Force to undertake the construction program outlined above.”

The first sentence of this paragraph creates no problems, and is accepted as a convenient collaboration in working out the final details, including the exact location of the sites. It is understood that the Government of Canada will acquire title to the privately owned lands for defense purposes. Under legislation which will soon go through Parliament, the Minister of Defense will be authorized to lease government property on the authority of an Order-in-Council. Such Orders-in-Council, however, must be laid before Parliament and are finally valid only if Parliament does not take action to disapprove within a specified time limit.

With these proposals thus subject to political review, and taking into account the somewhat delicate relationships between the Federal Government and the Province of Newfoundland in matters of sovereignty, officials in the Department of External Affairs are very much concerned over the political implications of the second sentence in the paragraph quoted above. They feel so strongly about this that the Embassy’s Note has been held in the Department of External Affairs and has not yet been referred to Cabinet Ministers, pending exploration of the possibility of modifying the request of the United States in certain respects, as outlined in the following paragraphs.

The most serious Canadian objection is to the proposed tenure of 99 years, which turns over these outlying areas to the United States for the same term as the Leased Bases themselves, which were granted to the United States under quite different conditions and for quite different purposes. Canadian officials feel that there would be strong protests against any action which seemed to establish the principle of an intention by the Government of Canada to cede additional territory to the United States. As a practical matter, it is pointed out, there is no necessity for a lease of such duration for communications facilities which may become obsolescent in a much shorter time and which may not actually be needed for this period. Furthermore, similar communications facilities are being established at Goose Bay for a much shorter period. Officials suggest that twenty-five years might be a reasonable tenure, subject to renewal if desired. Alternatively, a form [Page 873] of words leaving the tenure open for a reasonable period, or during such time as the communications facilities are needed, might solve the problem.
Canadian officials are also reluctant to make the lease contingent on the authority of Article XXVII of the 1941 Leased Bases Agreement, for much the same political reasons. They would much prefer a request based on a need for communications facilities essential to the defense of the North Atlantic area.
The request of the United States would also be more acceptable to Canada if it were not specified that the conditions of the Leased Bases Agreement be made applicable to the additional areas to be acquired. It was pointed out that this really involves only three things: (a) the tenure of the lease, discussed above; (b) the right to establish canteens, which appears not to be necessary for these particular areas; (c) the question of jurisdiction which, if excluded, would place U.S. personnel in these off-base areas under the same conditions as U.S. personnel anywhere in Canada outside the base areas.

There is no objection to appropriate references to the Leased Bases, since these communications facilities are definitely linked with their operations. The only objection is to an extension of the areas included in the 1941 Leased Bases Agreement, in an effort to avoid possible political difficulties over the question of sovereignty to which Canadians, and particularly Newfoundlanders, are so markedly sensitive.

The Embassy has been assured that the Government of Canada is most anxious to avoid creating any unnecessary difficulties in development of the communications project, which is cordially approved in principle. The purpose of these suggestions is in fact, to expedite the process of final approval and to make certain that there will be no last-minute objections on political grounds.

In order to expedite the necessary considerations by all agencies of the Government of Canada, the Department of External Affairs has already informed the Department of Transport of these proposals in order that they may be studied in their technical aspects. In that connection certain questions have been raised by the technicians, to which it is desired to have answers as soon as possible. These questions may have bearing on the possible necessity for adjustments in the Canadian system of communications.

[Here follow several technical questions.]

For the Ambassador:
Don C. Bliss

  1. Supra.
  2. Not printed.