50th Anniversary of White and Bob litigation
The 50th Anniversary of the historic hunting trip of Clifford White that led to the ground-breaking and seminal legal decision of R. v. White which recognized the reality of the Snuneymuxw Treaty of 1854 was on Sunday, July 7, 2013.
Clifford White had with him on the hunting trip his son Leonard White and Snuneymuxw member Jerry Thomas. David Bob Sr. was also on the trip. After shooting 6 deer, they were stopped by a provincial Game Officer and arrested for hunting deer out of season under the Game Act.
The Snuneymuxw gathered in the mountains on Sunday at 12 noon to commemorate this historic hunting trip. In attendance were Leonard White along with other members of late Clifford White’s family, Chief Douglas White III Kwulasultun, and members of Council.
This historic moment marked the beginning of the modern era of Treaty and Aboriginal Rights and Title advocacy and activism and rests at the foundation of the development of Canadian law about Treaty and Aboriginal rights!
On Monday, July 8, 2013 an event to mark this moment in history was held at the Old Nanaimo Courthouse.
Chief White, speaking on the Courthouse steps said, “This moment is historic because on this day, 50 years ago, in this courthouse behind us something remarkable happened. Clifford White and David Bob had been charged the day before for hunting deer out of season. The Snuneymuxw people were hungry so they went to hunt as our ancestors always have for thousands of years, in respect and recognition of the sacred relationship that we are in with our territory and the deer that live within our territory. For doing that, to feed ourselves and to keep ourselves alive, they were criminalized, they were told by the provincial government that being Snuneymuxw is a criminal activity.”
On Monday, July 8, 1963, Clifford White stood up from the prisoner's box in Nanaimo Magistrates Court and said, in answer to the charge of hunting deer out of season under the provincial Game Act, "The peace treaty signed years ago between the crown and the Indians, gives us the right to hunt and fish any time of the year."
“He stood up for a different conception of law and history. He stood up against the denial of our rights and the power and the authority of the crown that was being misused and he said that there is a treaty that exists between us that must mean something. That moment of standing up marks a major change and an historic moment of profound significance in this country because it became the first moment in the modern era of indigenous people standing up to articulate and defend to put forward their aboriginal rights, their aboriginal title and treaty rights,” Chief White remarked.
Lawyer Tom Berger was brought in to represent Clifford White and years later Chief White asked him how he arrived at the line of argument to use the aboriginal title and rights to defend Clifford and David from the charges and he said, “I asked the elders of the Snuneymuxw about the history of the treaty between Snuneymuxw and the crown and they told me about it.”
Chief White continued, “It was the strength of Snuneymuxw oral history and traditions, the teachings being passed on from our elders to our youth that put Clifford in that position to stand up the way he did fifty years ago. That knowledge was history passed down to us that we knew to be correct. Truly remarkable.”
The case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. They agreed that there was a treaty between the Snuneymuxw and the Crown and would be enforced. They decided that the provincial government had no authority to make decisions or to pass laws that would interfere with the operation of Snuneymuxw treaty rights.
Chief White concluded by saying, “This has been of such profound historical significance, not just to Snuneymuxw but to this country. We could not let this history go by without saying a few words today on behalf of the Snuneymuxw people in recognition and respect to honour and show that we cherish what our ancestors and elders have provided us. We will continue on with the fight to demonstrate that we are aware of the teachings that have been provided to us about standing up and being strong together every single day.”