Ernie Campbell, who served as Chief of the Musqueam Indian Band for 14 years, walked on Saturday, October 26.
Premier Christy Clark said British Columbia has now “lost of one of its foremost First Nations leaders.
“In a city of millions, Chief Campbell stood tall. His strong voice and unswerving leadership ensured the concerns of his people remained at the forefront through issues that could have divided us. Whether it was Aboriginal land and fishing rights or hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Chief Campbell always ensured his people were heard and always conducted himself with dignity,” she said in a statement.
“Chief Campbell was a tireless advocate and powerful voice that brought British Columbians together, always reminding us of what we should aspire to be as a society. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Musqueam people,” Clark said.
Campbell stood up for his people and their rights. When Ottawa shut down an aboriginal pilot fishery in 2003 after it was ruled unconstitutional by a British Columbia court, Campbell said they would ignore the ruling, reported CBC News.
“When a salmon passes through our territory, our rivers, when we catch it, that’s ours,” he said.
One of Campbell’s final battles was over a condo development on Musqueam burial grounds. Musqueam First Nation members set up blockades to stop the construction in May 2012.
Campbell wrote at the tie that c’?sna??m is a “site of continuous occupation of the Musqueam people since [the] time the first pyramids were built in Egypt…. The intact remains must remain where they are and not be further disturbed. They are the final resting places of our ancestors.”
The Musqueam won the battle in October 2012 when the province of British Columbia said it wouldn’t re-issue development permits.
“Chief Campbell was a firm believer in the rights and sovereignty of First Nations and a strong advocate for respect and protection of First Nations lands, traditional territories and resources, including his leadership in the area of fisheries. He was a strong proponent of First Nations self-determination and worked to ensure First Nations could make the decisions that affected their lands and their lives,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo in a statement.
“Many in the First Nations community will remember him as a clear and principled voice in discussions and negotiations with the federal, provincial and municipal governments throughout the past three decades. Chief Campbell always stood firm on his principles yet was able to maintain positive relationships and foster reconciliation between First Nations and Canadians.”