Daniels v. White

Supreme Court of Canada – [1968] S.C.R. 517

Manitoba Aboriginal rightsJurisdiction over IndiansTreaties

Accused of hunting migratory birds in violation of a federal law, Paul Daniels argued that the Manitoba Natural Resources Act, which provided that the province could not limit the Indians’ right to hunt, gave him immunity.

The Supreme Court found that the Act only limited the application of provincial laws, not federal ones.


Does s. 13 of the Manitoba Natural Resources Act exempt Indians from the terms of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and its Regulations?


No – this section only concerns laws adopted by the province, not federal ones. Also, the Migratory Birds Convention Act can apply to Indians (5 judges against 4).


Between: Paul Daniels

And: the Crown and Ronald Addison White


In 1870, Manitoba joined the Confederation as its fifth province by the operation of the Manitoba Act. Even though s. 109 of the British North American Act gives control to each provincial legislature over Crown lands inside its boundaries, the Manitoba Act stated that Crown lands in the new province and the natural resources they hold would be administered by the federal government.


In 1917, the Migratory Bird Convention Act is passed. It enacted an international convention between Canada and the United States concerning the protection of the life of migratory birds.

In 1929, the Manitoba Natural Resources Act was signed between the governments of Canada and Manitoba to deal with the transfer of management Crown lands and natural resources to the province. S. 13 of this agreement said that the province of Manitoba could enact laws in order to maintain a sufficient supply of game and fish under the condition that the treaty Indians who had the right to hunt, trap and fish for food all year long and on any unoccupied Crown lands.

In 1964, Paul Daniels, a member of the Chemahawin Indian band residing on Chemahawin Indian Reserve (now known as Chemawawin Cree Nation) in Manitoba, was charged of illegal possession of migratory game birds during a prohibited period, in violation of the regulations under the Migratory Birds Convention Act


Daniels: Section 13 of the Act exempted him from the provision of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and its Regulations. Manitoba did not held the legislative power limit the right of Indians to hunt or fish for food, which is protected by treaty.

The Crown : The agreement gave the responsibility to the province of Manitoba to manage natural resources, thereby allowing them to regulate fish and game.

Decision of the lower courts

Manitoba County Court: Daniels is acquitted.

Manitoba Court of Appeal (1966): Daniels is guilty. The Migratory Birds Act is a law of general application throughout Canada, which an international treaty enforces. It has precedence over the agreement between Manitoba and the federal government. The dissenting justice wrote that the agreement prevailed over the Migratory Birds Convention Act because even if the law is of general application across the country, it has a different effect in each part of Canada.

Reasons for Judgement


Fauteux, Abbott, Martland, Judson, Pigeon


Section 13 of the agreement not exempt Daniels from the stipulations of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and its Regulations. In fact, the purpose behind the Manitoba Natural Resources Act was to transfer lands attached with particular obligations and limitations on the transferee, not on the transferor.

In this case, the effect of s. 13 was to render provincial game laws applicable to Indians in Manitoba. Also, Pigeon J., siding with the majority, added that the parties should consider only the provincial legislation, which imposed obligations on the province to protect the use of resources so that all its residents, including Indians, could benefit of them. It is an objective shared by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and therefore the restrictions it contained should be applied to Indians.


In 1995, the Convention on the Protection of Migratory Birds between Canada and the United States was amended by an additional protocol. It was then incorporated into Canadian law with the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994.

The new Convention reflected the achievements made in Aboriginal law, more specifically since the adoption of the Constitution Act, 1982. It recognized to Aboriginal peoples in Canada the right to harvest and hunt migratory birds and their eggs at all time for food and for barter, exchange, trade or sale within Aboriginal communities (Protocol, article II, 4 (a)(i)). The protocol entered into force in 1999.

Related Cases

Kruger and al. v. The Queen, [1978] 1 S.C.R. 104

R. v. Horse, [1988] 1 S.C.R. 187

Myran v. R., [1976] 2 S.C.R. 137

Cardinal v. Attorney General of Alberta, [1974] S.C.R. 695


Protocol between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America Amending the 1916 Convention between the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada and the United States, Can. T.S. 1999 No. 34, preamble, Art. II

Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, S.C. 1994, c. 22

Hogg Peter W. 2008. Constitutional Law of Canada, Student Edition. Thomson : Scarborough.

Manitoba Conservation. 2009. Fishing, Hunting & Gathering: The Rights and Responsabilities of First Nations People in Manitoba. Online. http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/firstnations/pdfs/ hunting_fishing_oct_09.pdf. Retrieved on July 20th 2010.

Olthuis John, Kleer Nancy and Roger Townshend. 2008. Aboriginal Law Handbook. Carswell: Toronto.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. 1996. Restructuring the Relationship, Volume 2, Part Two. Ottawa : Supply and Services Canada.

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