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Labrador is a region on the easternmost coast of Canada. It forms the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, together with the island of Newfoundland from which it is separated by the Strait of Belle Isle. The region is part of the Labrador Peninsula.

The population of Labrador is 27,860 (2001 census), including some 30 percent Aboriginal peoples, including Inuit, Innu, and Métis. With an area of 294,330 km², it is the size of Italy. Its former capital was Battle Harbour .

The name "Labrador" is one of the oldest names of European origin in Canada, almost as old as the name "Newfoundland". It is named after João Fernandes Lavrador who, together with Pedro de Barcelos, first sighted it in 1492.

Most non-Aboriginal settlement of Labrador occurred due to fishing villages, missions, and fur trading outposts. Until modern times, difficult sea travel and lack of general transportation facilities discouraged settlement. In the 1760s, Moravian missionaries began settling, building missions and often sharing in the fur trade with the Hudson's Bay Company, which was the dominant force on the peninsula until 1870. Claims have persisted concerning the Ungava Peninsula with Quebec, although they were formally settled in 1927 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

John James Audubon called Labrador "the most extensive and dreariest wilderness I have ever beheld".


The Labrador boundary dispute

Line A: the boundary decided by the Privy Council; the current legal boundary. Line B: the boundary demanded by Newfoundland in the 1920s, and now claimed by Quebec today.
Line A: the boundary decided by the Privy Council; the current legal boundary. Line B: the boundary demanded by Newfoundland in the 1920s, and now claimed by Quebec today.

The tortuous border between Labrador and Canada was set March 2, 1927, after a five-year trial. In 1809 Labrador had been transferred from Lower Canada to Newfoundland, but the landward boundary of Labrador had never been precisely stated. Newfoundland argued it extended to the height of land, but Canada, stressing the historical use of the term "Coasts of Labrador", argued the boundary was one statute mile (1.6 km) inland from the high-tide mark. As Canada and Newfoundland were separate countries but both members of the British Empire, the matter was referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London), which set the Labrador boundary mostly along the coastal watershed. One of Newfoundland's conditions for joining Confederation in 1949 was that this boundary be entrenched in the Canadian constitution. However, this border has never been formally accepted by the Quebec government; sometimes a different border is shown on maps.[1] The province's name change to Newfoundland and Labrador was meant to emphasize its claim to Labrador. (See Newfoundland and Labrador for more details.)

A Royal Commission in 2002 determined that there is a certain amount of public pressure from Labradorians to break off from Newfoundland and become a separate province or territory. Some of the Innu nation would have the area become a homeland for them, much as Nunavut is for the Inuit; a 1999 resolution of the Assembly of First Nations claimed Labrador as a homeland for the Innu and demanded recognition in any further constitutional negotiations regarding the region. [2]


  • 1498: Visited by John Cabot
  • 1500: Visited by Gaspar Corte-Real
  • 1534: Visited by Jacques Cartier
  • 1763: Labrador is transferred from the French colony Canada to the British colony Newfoundland as per the Treaty of Paris.
  • 1774: Labrador is transferred (along with Anticosti Island and the Magdalen Islands) to Quebec.
  • 1791: Labrador becomes part of Lower Canada when Quebec is divided into two colonies.
  • 1809: Labrador (from Cape Chidley to the mouth of the Saint-Jean River) is transferred back to Newfoundland.
  • 1825: The north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence west of Blanc-Sablon and south of 52° north is separated from Labrador and transferred back to Lower Canada.
  • 1927: The Labrador boundary dispute is settled.
  • 1949: Labrador becomes part of Canada when Newfoundland joins Confederation.
  • 2001: The province changes its name to Newfoundland and Labrador.


  • The Lure of the Labrador Wild, by Dillon Wallace (ISBN 1404315373; July 2002)

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Last updated: 11-08-2004 07:28:50