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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

From Wardship to Rights

The Guerin Case and Aboriginal Law

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.

288 pages | 5 2/4 x 8 2/4

Landmark Cases in Canadian Law


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