A Platform for Action – Respect, Implementation and Protection of Treaties

My grandfather Douglas White I was Chief of Snuneymuxw during the historic White and Bob litigation that went all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1965 and recognized that the treaties of Vancouver Island exist, will be enforced, and push back upon provincial crown authority to protect the effect and continuity of our treaty rights. When his cousin Clifford White went hunting in the summer of 1963 in the mountains behind Nanaimo his actions, and the legal defense of his actions, opened up a new era in Canadian history where First Nations in every decade since have successfully used the courts and Canada’s legal process to defend their way of life and their rights to their territories and resources.

Notwithstanding this, two generations later, when I became Chief of Snuneymuxw in 2009, I was shocked to see the full extent of the Crown’s continuing denial of the existence of the treaties and their failure to recognize, respect and implement them. The Crown was effectively functioning as if the treaties did not exist – 50 years after a Supreme Court of Canada decision directed otherwise.

For too long the Crown has failed to uphold, recognize and protect treaty rights that exist across British Columbia. This unjust pattern of behaviour has destroyed the Crown’s integrity and credibility and undermines contemporary efforts between the Crown and First Nations. Simply put, if the Crown does not fundamentally change its disposition and approach toward existing treaties, there can be no hope for meaningful relationships between the Crown and First Nations and certainly not any meaningful reconciliation in our time.

It is not an acceptable or realistic approach any longer for the Crown to continue to bury its head in the sand in relation to our rights and its obligations. The status quo represents a deeply broken approach that is not sustainable – the longer the Crown refuses change, the deeper and more profound the conflict will become – in the courts and on the ground.

BC is home to many forms of treaty relationship from across the past 165 years of relations between the Crown and First Nations – from the 1850s Pre-Confederation Treaties of Vancouver Island to the 1899 Treaty 8 in Northeastern BC, to the more recent Nisga’a, Tsawwassen, Maa-nulth treaties. The Crown has a duty to diligently pursue the fulfillment of their constitutional obligations under these treaties and a fiduciary duty to uphold and protect the rights recognized by Treaty.

As Regional Chief, I will work with First Nations to ensure that their treaties are respected and implemented and mean something and a make a difference in the lives or their peoples.