The arrangement by which British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871 has had long-term repercussions for the Native peoples of that province. Article 13 of that agreement referred specifically to Natives and promised that the new province would follow "a policy as liberal as that hitherto pursued" by the colonial government in B.C. Given the prior experience of Natives with officialdom in B.C., this was hardly reassuring. Prior to union, British Columbia had only signed 14 treaties and those treaties in total covered only four per cent of Vancouver Island.  Doubts were confirmed with a second aspect of the Confederation agreement. Ottawa was given jurisdiction over Native peoples, as was the case elsewhere, and provisions were made for the transfer to federal authority of lands for reserves. But British Columbia, alone of the Western provinces, retained control of Crown lands in Confederation. (The Prairie provinces waited until 1930 to achieve this power.) Despite the promise to surrender land for reserves, B.C. administrators, notably Joseph Trutch, resisted the idea, and the two governments battled for years over the obligation and the size of reserves to be set aside. The federal government even disallowed B.C.'s 1874 Crown Lands Act because it failed to establish reserve lands. This conflict has resulted in the very restricted establishment of reserves in the province and a great deal of friction between B.C. and both the federal government and various Native peoples, problems that remain more than a century later.

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Chinook Multimedia

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