There is a fairly progressive editorial in the Times-Colonist on the Cadboro Bay land compensation issue. The editorial cites John Lutz’s excellent book Makuk:A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations, to boot.
Lawyer Rory Morahan, acting on behalf of the Songhees, says the Chekonein village sites and fields were never surveyed, reserved or protected as required by the treaty. “The colony, or the province, appropriated the lands and issued title to the lands to other parties — that is, non-aboriginal colonists,” he says. The statement of claim says the Crown never paid compensation for taking the treaty land between 1851 and 1871.
The case will be complicated, given the variety of historical documents that will be presented to the court. Some basic facts are not in dispute, since even Roderick Finlayson, an early chief factor for the Bay, mentioned the Cadboro Bay village in his memoirs.
Beyond what is written in the treaties, the court might need to consider whether the Lekwungen actually understood what they were agreeing to. Lutz’s research has raised questions about the communication gap between the aboriginals and the whites.
Douglas signed nine treaties with aboriginals on southern Vancouver Island and, as Morahan says, this lawsuit could set a precedent if successful.
The decision could have ramifications elsewhere in the province. The Lekwungen were the first aboriginals in British Columbia to be dispossessed by settlers, but similar actions — land grants given, then taken without compensation — occurred for decades.
If it is proven in court that an injustice has occurred, the governments should act quickly to make things right. After a century and a half, it’s time.
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed a fairly progressive editorial slant down at the TC – good for them, as the comments on their pieces show, there is a lot of resistance to the notion of fair compensation.