archives art gallery museum
Intro Sir Wilfred Grenfell IGA Lantern Slides Timeline Glossary

Fonds Number
GN 2/5 Office of the Colonial Secretary file 225-H (1 and 2)

Grenfell Enquiry fonds

Dates of Creation

Physical Description
4.5 cm of textual records

Administrative/Biographical Sketch
The Grenfell Enquiry was established by Order-in-Council on 17 August 1917, under the Public Enquiries Act (CSN, 1916, c. 30), on the recommendation of Governor Walter E. Davidson. The Royal Commission was mandated to enquire into allegations made against charities operating on the Labrador coast. The commissioner was Robert T. Squarey. The final report was submitted on 1 November 1917.

During the 1917 session of the House of Assembly, a petition was presented from a group of merchants stating grievances against charitable organizations operating on the coast of Labrador, namely the International Grenfell Association (IGA) and the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fisherman (RNMDSF). The merchants claimed the charities misrepresented Newfoundlanders as paupers; that the charities were in direct competition with merchants; that Grenfell cooperative stores were being subsidized by unknowing American philanthropists, and that these charities had committed breaches in the Customs Act. On 21 July 1917 the IGA officially petitioned the Governor to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the charges against them.

On 15 August, the Directors of the IGA sent a petition to St. Johnís newspapers, requesting that the Commissionís mandate be extended to include an overall investigation of the operations of the IGA. The Directors feared that the enquiry could have a detrimental effect on the reputation of the IGA. The Royal Commission was appointed by Order-in-Council 17 August 1917, under the Public Enquiries Act (CSN, 1916, c. 30). However, the Commission was only mandated to investigate the allegations made by the merchants in their petition.

On 4 September, the IGA made a second appeal for an extended mandate through their solicitor Brian Dunfield. On 15 September a new Order-in-Council was issued. This new Commission, which contained the original mandate, was also instructed to investigate the work of the IGA and to what extent and in what way that work was a public benefit. Normally when a commission is cancelled, the new Order-in-Council is issued under the new date. However, in the case of the Grenfell Enquiry the new Order was issued in the same date as the old one.

The Commission began on 6 September 1917 at the Court House in St. Johnís. Both the IGA and the petitioners had counsel throughout the enquiry. The Commission travelled to Harbour Grace, Carbonear, the Northern Peninsula and the coast of Labrador. Sixty witnesses gave testimony.

In the final report Squarey examines each aspect of the IGA operations, including hospitals, schools, agriculture, the St. Anthony Orphanage, the Grenfell Hotel, and Mission machine shop and wharfs. The Commission concluded that the petitioners failed to prove their complaints. Although the cooperative stores were established by Grenfell, the commissioner was unable to discover any connection between the IGA and the stores. Shares in the co-ops were owned by area fishermen, and did not receive funding through charity. Grenfell denied that he portrayed Newfoundlanders as paupers. He maintained that his lectures were usually organized and attended by Newfoundlanders. However, he admitted that the newspaper reporters who attended his lectures dramatised the poverty with "kindly enthusiasm." No breaches of the Customs Act were discovered. However, Squarey recommended that to remove any feelings of unfair competition the IGA pay duty on any clothing imported and the Government rebate the amount annually. Throughout the report Squarey praised the work of the IGA, and pointed out that their work saved the Newfoundland Government money.

Custodial History
The Special Files of the Colonial Secretary were transferred from the Department of Provincial Affairs. It is assumed the Grenfell Enquiry was received with this acquisition.

Fonds consists of original typed petition form merchants, counter petitions from IGA, draft commissions, official Order-in-Council, minute-in-council, correspondence of the Office of the Colonial Secretary, bound testimony and evidence (typed and handwritten), and two typed copies of final report. The fonds also includes newspaper clippings, tracers, the IGA Memorandum and Articles of Association, and IGA annual reports for 1914-1916.

Variations in Title
Also known as Royal Commission to Enquire into the Charitable Organizations on the Labrador Coast and to what extent and in what way their work is a public benefit and in what way it affects the mercantile business of the colony

Previously known as Enquiry into the Affairs of the IGA

Also commonly known as Squarey Commission

Source of Title
Common name of Enquiry

Source of Acquisition
Acquired from the Newfoundland Department of Provincial Affairs

Related Fonds
MG 63. International Grenfell Association fonds
MG 327. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell fonds

Newfoundland. Grenfell Enquiry

Author Access Points
International Grenfell Association

Accession Number