Delbert Guerin (1938 - 2014) has been described as an inspiration, a visionary, a leader and a tireless warrior. He was all of these and more. His public persona will always be associated with his leadership role in the famous court case that bears his name - it was the first Aboriginal community to successfully sue the federal government.
To read more on the implications of this case in terms of fiduciary duty of the Crown, please see Guerin v. The Queen, 1984
Born in 1938 to a Musqueam father and Squamish mother, he spent his early years on the Squamish Mission Reserve but moved to the Musqueam reserve when he was 15. He followed in his father’s footsteps and began a 40 year long career of working on the docks. He was a member of the ILWU local 500 as a longshoreman for four decades. He also worked as a log salvager and commercial fisherman.
As an advocate for and chief of the Musqueam Nation and for First Nation people, he devoted much time to organizations that supported their rights. He belonged to and was an active member in:
- National Indian Brotherhood (precursor to Assembly of First Nations)
- Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBIC; founded in 1969 initially to fight Canada’s White Paper and fight for Indigenous rights and title)
- Native Brotherhood of BC (formed in 1931; represents First Nations Fishermen, Tendermen, and shore workers)
- Alliance Tribal Council (formed in 1983; Geurin was a founding member; now known as Nauts’amat Tribal Council)
In a press release on the passing of Delbert Guerin, Musqueam chief Wayne Sparrow said “Delbert dedicated much of his life to making sure our rights were acknowledged, and we owe it to him and our future generations to keep this vision alive.”
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