UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

See you in court : native Indians and the law in British Columbia, 1969-1985 Bush, Pamela Joanne


Between 1969 and 1985, native Indians in British Columbia have used the courts in a significant number of cases to pursue goals which can be considered particularly Indian in that they have arisen as a result of the Indians' position as one of the indigenous peoples of Canada. Three general questions with respect to the use of the courts are addressed. First, what goals have native Indians pursued in the courts, and how are these related to the objectives which native Indians are pursuing in the political arena? Second, how have these goals been pursued in court; that is, what legal arguments were used, how were these related to the goals pursued, and how do these affect the possible impact of the cases? Third, what have been the consequences of court action? Through an examination of the court cases in which native Indians were involved from 1969-1985, four major goals were identified. First, native Indians used the courts in order to ensure that they received the benefits to which they were entitled under the provisions of the. Indian Act. Second, native Indians challenged the way in which the federal government had administered the Indian Act. Third, Indians have attempted to preserve their traditional way of life by arguing that federal and provincial legislation which regulates hunting and fishing should not apply to them. Fourth, native Indians have used the courts in attempts to prevent damage to land and resources to which they have a claim. Native Indians have not attempted to achieve a recognition of their right to self-government through court action; rather they have pursued goals which can be termed "economic" from the viewpoint of non-native society. Native Indians have used the courts both in order to achieve legal solutions to disputes, and as a means of putting economic and political pressure on governments. In their attempts to use the courts to achieve legal solutions, Indians have achieved some successes. The overall utility of the courts as a means of putting economic and political pressure on governments has yet to be determined, although to date it would appear that native Indians have made some gains by using the courts in this way.

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