Douglas Treaties Conference Wraps up at VIU in Nanaimo

Sat. May. 12/12
Douglas Treaties conference wraps up at VIU in Nanaimo

An "out-of-season" hunting trip near Old Nanaimo Lakes Road five decades ago led to one of the greatest precedent-setting wins for the Douglas Treaty tribes, say those gathered at the two-day Pre-Confederation Treaties conference.

Top Aboriginal leaders, politicians and academics converged on Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo for a two-day conference on the 157-year-old Douglas Treaties and what they mean for Vancouver Island. Talks ranged from earning greater political respect for the treaties to educating people about why the rights are fought so fiercely for.

Delegates also talked about moving away from court battles, which have become the norm since the "White and Bob" case in the 1960s, and into conversations with government about holding true to the Douglas Treaties. Clifford White of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and David Bob, Sr. of the Snaw'Naw'As were brought to court for killing deer out of season. The defence pointed out it was their right to hunt and fish under the Douglas Treaties, signed in 1854.

"It was the first time we saw the court enforce the promises made 100 years ago," said Louise Mandell, a Vancouver-based lawyer for treaty rights. "We have been able to use the treaty as a sword and a shield since."

Wayne Edwards, a descendent of Bob, said despite the landmark case, government is still taking First Nations people to court about treaty-related issues. Change is needed, he said.