From Wardship to Rights
308 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
8 b&w photos, 1 map
Release Date:01 May 2020
Release Date:01 May 2020
Release Date:01 May 2020
Release Date:01 May 2020

From Wardship to Rights

The Guerin Case and Aboriginal Law

UBC Press

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This book tells the story of a First Nation’s single-minded quest for justice. In 1958, the federal government leased a third of the small Musqueam Reserve in Vancouver to an exclusive golf club at less than market value and on highly unfavourable terms. When the band members, led by Chief Delbert Guerin, discovered the true nature of the lease in 1970, they initiated legal action. Although repeatedly advised to drop the case, their tenacity led to the 1984 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Guerin v. The Queen.

In Guerin, the Court held that the government has a fiduciary duty towards Indigenous peoples – an obligation to act in their best interests. This landmark decision is explored in this book, written by an Aboriginal rights lawyer who served as one of the legal counsel for the Musqueam and argued on their behalf all the way to the highest court in the land. Jim Reynolds provides an in-depth analysis, first considering the context covering the relationship between the colonial authorities and Indigenous peoples, the facts that led to the case, and the role of governments as fiduciaries. He then explains the working of the case through the courts and the decisions. He concludes by investigating the major impact that Guerin had on Canadian law, politics, and society.

The Guerin case changed the relationship between governments and Indigenous peoples from one of wardship to one based on legal rights. It was a seismic decision with implications that resonate today, not only in Canada but also in other Commonwealth countries.

This very readable account of an important decision on Indigenous rights will be of interest to legal scholars, law students, lawyers, policy makers, and members of the general public; it will also resonate with historians, anthropologists, and political scientists studying the impact of colonialism on First Nations.

From Wardship to Rights is a captivating account of one of the most significant moments in Canadian legal history. Beyond its value in preserving the first-hand memories of the participants, Jim Reynolds's book offers an understandable yet uncompromised contribution to the scholarship of Canadian Aboriginal law. Corbin Golding, Saskatchewan Law Review
This is a masterful work by Jim Reynolds on the importance of the Guerin case. The Musqueam people and the Guerin family brought to the attention of the Courts historic injustices committed by the Crown and by the government’s failure to protect Aboriginal title and rights. Their actions changed the course of law and policy to the benefit of all First Nations peoples. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe), Director, Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, and Professor of Law, University of British Columbia
Jim Reynolds’s intimate involvement as counsel for the Musqueam provides readers with unique insight into this vitally important case. His book has historical and contemporary significance, demonstrating Guerin’s ongoing impact and how it set the stage for modern Indigenous rights’ jurisprudence Kent McNeil, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Jim Reynolds is the former general counsel for the Musqueam Indian Band in Vancouver. He played a key role in the Guerin decision. He has practised, taught, and written about Aboriginal law for four decades. His most recent book is Aboriginal Peoples and the Law: A Critical Introduction, published by UBC Press/Purich.



Part 1: The Context

1 The Colonial Context

2 The Musqueam and Their Land

3 The Government as Fiduciary

Part 2: The Case

4 The Trial and Federal Court of Appeal

5 The Supreme Court of Canada

Part 3: The Consequences

6 The Impact of Guerin


Notes; Selected Bibliography; Index of Cases; Index

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