Legislative and Legal Impacts of the Royal Commission

As outlined by the Commissioners themselves, consent had to be given by the majority of adult male Band members before the government could make any changes to the physical layout of the reserves [See Background narrative for details]. Because consent was not received, the Federal and Provincial governments agreed to pass two pieces of legislation to give themselves permission to ignore this requirement. The Federal government passed their law first in 1919, entitling it The Indian Affairs Settlement Act. The Province of British Columbia followed in 1920 with the Land Settlement Act. After passing these acts, the governments cut off over 36,000 acres of land from reserves all over British Columbia without consultation, consent, or compensation.

Organized opposition and umbrella organizations already active for many years prior to the Commission, such as the Indian Rights Association and the Interior Tribes of British Columbia, fought against the government in the struggle to protect Aboriginal Title and Rights. Resistance specific to the McKenna McBride Royal Commission emerged immediately following the creation of the Commission in 1913.

In 1916, the Allied Indian Tribes was formed out of a conference held by prominent First Nations activists, Andrew Paull and Peter Kelly. The goal of the Allied Tribes was to seek a resolution to land claims in British Columbia through negotiation with the Federal and Provincial governments. On behalf of the Aboriginal Peoples of British Columbia, the Allied Tribes lobbied relentlessly against the adoption of the cut-offs recommended in the Report of the Royal Commission. The Allied Tribes also produced a detailed rejection (Statement of the Allied Tribes) of the report. It consisted of nine reasons for refusal to accept, including:

  • the Commission's failure to deal with, or even recognize, Aboriginal Title and Rights
  • the Commissioners had failed to address the inequalities between tribes with respect to both area and value of previous reserve allotments
  • the Commissioners had failed to make adjustments to water rights

The recommendations of the Royal Commission were eventually adopted in 1924 without First Nations' consent and without adequate amendments addressing the concerns expressed by the Allied Tribes and other activists. The investigation of the Royal Commission and the advocacy of Indian rights pursued by the Allied Tribes and other political organizations and activists contributed to the long and successful history of political activism among First Nations in British Columbia.

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