Celebrating Tsawout embracing self-determination and the right to fish as formerly

Apr 7, 2022 | 42-3, Blog, Governance, Indigenous, Legislature, Statement, Video

Tsawout First Nation has created a first-of-its-kind Marine Use Law embracing the principles of self-determination and the right to “fish as formerly” captured in the Douglas Treaty.

This has enabled Tsawout to realize economic development opportunities, including with Cascadia Seaweed to grow kelp in the waters in their territory.

It is an exciting development and I look forward to seeing the other W̱SÁNEĆ Nations in developing relationships of their own and the provincial and federal governments accommodating them as per our commitments under the Declaration Act.


I rise today in celebration of an economic development venture between my relatives, Tsawout, and Cascadia Seaweed.

November 2019 I was proud to stand in this assembly as part of the unanimous support in the passing of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Articles 3 and 4 of the Declaration Act highlight Indigenous people’s right to self-determination, the right to freely determine their economic development and the right to autonomy in matters relating to their territory and local affairs. Articles 20, 21, 32 and 36 all highlight the right of Indigenous people to make decisions about their territory and economic opportunities.

In February of 1852, my W̱SÁNEĆ ancestors entered into an agreement with James Douglas, the first governor of the colony of British Columbia. Fast-forward to 1989, and the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Tsawout in the Saanichton Bay Marina case. The court decision was critical in defining our right to fish as formerly, including our right to catch fish and the right to the places that we fish.

The W̱SÁNEĆ right to fish is unqualified, protects us against infringement of our right to carry on our fisheries as formerly and includes the right to travel to and from our fishery. Finally, the court found that generally, the rules, when applied to the treaty, should be given fair, large and liberal construction in favour of the W̱SÁNEĆ.

It is with this understanding that the Tsawout have exercised their right to create a first-of-its-kind marine use law as the foundation of this important economic development partnership. This is exactly what we hoped for when we passed the Declaration Act, and I raise my hands to the Tsawout leadership, Elders and youth who have made this opportunity become a reality.


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