First Nations land and treaty rights negotiation work has garnered former Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White honours from the province’s justice ministry.
Doug White III, chairman of the B.C. First Nations Justice Council, has been honoured with a Queen’s counsel designation in recognition for his legal work, the B.C. Ministry of Attorney General announced Tuesday. White was one of 26 lawyers appointed this year out of 136 nominees. He said he was informed by David Eby, B.C. Attorney General, and it was a “humbling recognition” of the different kinds of work that he’s done.
“Over the past number of years, I’ve been working to advance the recognition and implementation of aboriginal rights and aboriginal title and treaty rights in different negotiations,” White told the News Bulletin. “Mainly at the Snuneymuxw First Nation, but also at the Lake Babine Nation, where I have been the chief negotiator for the past six years up there. We’ve achieved the development of a new model of agreement between First Nations and the Crown that is fundamentally rooted in recognition and implementation of aboriginal title and rights … [it’s] historic.”
The Lake Babine agreement, signed in September, included immediate transfer of more than 20,000 hectares of land near Burns Lake.
White also worked on crafting a provincial First Nations justice strategy, which he described as a “fundamental document between First Nations and the Crown about changing the criminal justice system in B.C.” He said the strategy entails First Nations taking over legal services from Legal Aid B.C. non-profit providing legal assistance to those with low income, and establishing a network of 15 Indigenous justice centres across the province.
“We expect that, as we’re working now on the implementation of it, that it will have profound transformative impact for First Nations and Indigenous peoples in the province and their experience with the criminal justice system,” said White.
B.C. First Nations Justice Council was pleased with its chairperson’s recognition, saying in a press release that White is deserving of the Queen’s counsel honour.
“He is a gifted practitioner and a tireless advocate for Indigenous people,” said Rosalie Yazzie, council vice-chairperson, in a press release. “His track record shows years of dedication and commitment to First Nations and numerous organizations that have, in turn, benefited from his leadership, expertise and advocacy.”
According to the ministry, candidates are nominated by their peers and are vetted by an advisory committee that forwards recommendations to the attorney general.