Sir Julian Pauncefote to Mr. Olney .

Sir: With reference to your note, No. 225, of the 17th of October last, on the subject of an alleged attempt on the part of the Canadian authorities to assert jurisdiction over Oak Island, in the Lake of the Woods, I have the honor to forward herewith copy of an approved minute of the Canadian privy council on the subject, which I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General of Canada.

You will observe that the ministers of the Dominion report that no action has been taken by the Canadian authorities with any intention of interfering with United States jurisdiction.

I have, etc.,

Julian Pauncefote.

Extract from a report of the committee of the honorable the privy council, approved by his excellency on the 8th January, 1896.

The committee of the privy council have had under consideration a dispatch, hereto attached, dated 19th October, 1895, from Sir Julian Pauncefote, inclosing a copy of a communication, dated 17th October, 1895, from the Secretary of State of the United States announcing that representations had been made to the United States Government that the Canadian department of marine and fisheries is taking steps to secure evidence as to the channel in the Lake of the Woods around Oak Island, with the alleged intention of claiming that that island is within the territorial jurisdiction of the Dominion.

The minister of marine and fisheries, to whom the matter was referred, observes that it is pointed out that the ownership of the island in question has been conventionally determined, and attention is drawn to Article VII of the treaty of Ghent, 24th December, 1814, relating to the boundary between the United States and the North American possessions of Great Britain, agreeing that commissioners duly appointed should decide the ownership of the several islands lying in waters forming boundaries, in conformity with the full intent and meaning of the treaty of peace, 1783. Article II of the Webster-Ashburton treaty of 9th August, 1842, is likewise cited in further specifying the line of demarcation as referring to the boundary in Lake of the Woods to run from “that point in Lac la Pluie, or Rainy Lake, at the Chaudiere Falls, from which the commissioners traced the line to the most northwestern point of the Lake of the Woods.” Mr. Secretary Olney then proceeds to explain that on the original map prepared by the commissioners, and upon which the boundary line is traced, Oak Island is the island marked No. 1, and its American character and occupancy have not admitted of any doubt, while the reported extension of Canadian surveys to the westward of the island is regarded as an intrusion upon United States territory.

The minister states that the matter is therefore brought to the attention of your excellency’s Government with a view to avoiding any possible conflict between citizens [Page 726] of the United States having interests in Oak Island and the Dominion officials, who, it is alleged, are seeking to establish jurisdiction in that portion of the United States.

The minister observes that so far as the reported action of the department of marine and fisheries is concerned the information which has reached the State Department at Washington is entirely without foundation. No survey whatever of the nature has been undertaken in the vicinity by the department of marine and fisheries, nor has any attempt been made to extend the territorial jurisdiction of Canada, so far as the administration of affairs controlled by the department of marine and fisheries is concerned.

The minister further states that the only incident which has come under his notice which might have been instrumental in leading to rumor resulting in the representations to the United States Government, is connected with the issue of fishing licenses in Lake of the Woods.

It has been claimed by certain parties and supported by the opinion of a number of old settlers that the boundary line followed the steamboat channel, and that such channel was south of Oak Island. Also, some inquiries were made at the time touching the identity of the island laid down as No. 1 in the boundary map with that commonly known as Oak Island. Beyond the authoritative establishment of the boundary as laid down in the conventions cited by Mr. Secretary Olney, and of the identity of the island designated as No. 1, the department of marine and fisheries has had no concern whatever; neither has it in any way suggested an expansion of territory or jurisdiction beyond that conventionally conferred upon the Crown.

The committee advise that your excellency be moved to forward a certified copy of this minute to his excellency Her Majesty’s ambassador at Washington, as well as to the right honorable Her Majesty’s principal secretary of state for the colonies.

All of which is respectfully submitted for your excellency’s approval.

John J. McGee, Clerk of the Privy Council.