Halifax Fisheries Commission
The Halifax Fisheries Commission was a joint international tribunal created by the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States in 1877 under Articles 22 and 23 of the Treaty of Washington (1871). The purpose of the Commission was to determine the amount of compensation, if any, to be paid by the United States to the United Kingdom under Article 18 of the Treaty, in return for fishing privileges for Americans in the Atlantic waters off Canada and Newfoundland.
The Commission was composed of three members. The British Government appointed Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt as the British representative on the Commission. The United States appointed Ensign H. Kellogg as the American representative. The third member and chair of the Commission was M. Maurice Delfosse, the Belgian Minister to the United States, who was appointed by the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Counsel for the British government were:
- Joseph Doutre, Q.C. of Montreal, Quebec;
- Sir R. Thompson, Q.C. of Saint John, New Brunswick;
- Hon. W.V. Whiteway, Q.C., of St. John's, Newfoundland;
- Hon. Louis H. Davies, of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island;
- R.L. Weatherbe, Q.C., of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
On 23 November 1877, the Commission gave its decision. The Commission split, 2-1. The majority, composed of M. Delfosse and Sir Alexander Galt, ruled in favour of the British Government and held that the United States was to pay the British Government $5,500,000, in gold, as compensation for American fishing rights in British North American waters. The American Commissioner, Mr. Kellogg, dissented, stating that in his opinion the Treaty conferred greater advantages on the British Government than those conferred on the American Government. He also questioned whether the Commission could render a binding decision unless it was unanimous. Mr Foster, the American Agent, then registered a formal protest against the non-unanimous award.
In spite of the dissent by the American Commissioner and the protest by the American Agent, the United States duly paid the award of $5,500,000, by means of the American Minister to the United Kingdom, John Welsh.
When the treaty was later denounced by the United States, negotiations had to be resumed and a new treaty was signed in 1888.
The Treaty and the Commission were notable steps in the recognition of Canada as a self-governing dominion within the British Empire. Although the Commission was formally set up by the United Kingdom and the United States, the British Commissioner and four of the five counsel representing the British government were Canadian, the fifth counsel being a Newfoundlander.