Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver BC – The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and representatives for the Tsartlip First Nation hosted a press conference today in Vancouver to speak to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Ivan Morris et al v. Her Majesty The Queen. The Supreme Court of Canada’s affirmation of the Tsartlip First Nation’s right to hunt as protected by the North Saanich Treaty of 1852, referred to as one of the “Douglas Treaties.”
Wayne (Ivan) Morris welcomed the decision, “Here it is, years and years of thinking of our rights and waiting for justice and we won. It is a victory not only for the present generations but for our future generations as well.”
Carl Olsen commented “The decision not only upholds our treaty rights, it protects our traditional way of life.”
Wayne Morris and Carl Olsen are the two Tsartlip hunters who were convicted of an offence under s. 27(1)(d) of the Wildlife Act for hunting during prohibited hours and hunting with lights (“night hunting”).
“With this decision, the Province of BC can’t sit in their offices in Victoria and draft laws saying ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. It is clear that BC has to engage First Nation communities about their rights” said Ardith Walkem, co-counsel for Morris and Olsen.
Grand Chief Ed John, First Nations Summit, stated “The Leadership Council is very pleased with today's ruling affirming the legitimacy and importance of historic treaties in British Columbia. These treaties are not historical curiosities or oddities - they are living legal and constitutional instruments outlining the unique relationships between First Nations peoples and governments. These rights and relationships are current and real and have modern day implications for the lands, territory and resources covered by the treaty.”
“The ramifications of this decision will be felt right across Canada. Treaty rights are affirmed and they must be respected. As courts affirm our respective rights, there will be increased pressure to protect those rights. In this case, what use is the right to hunt when our territories are under pressure from massive developments such as the Bear Mountain development? It is time for governments to fundamentally change their attitudes and recognize treaties like the Douglas treaties the agreements in spirit of reconciliation and drastically reform the existing legislation and policy frameworks to conform to our rights,” concluded Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
– 30 –
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Wayne Morris, Tsartlip First Nation, (250) 882-0910
Don Tom, Counselor, Tsartlip First Nation, (250) 813-3315
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, (250) 490-5314
Ed John, First Nations Summit, (604) 219-1705