BRITISH COLUMBIA

Ernest Campbell Dead: Former Chief Of Musqueam First Nation Dies

10/27/2013 05:42 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
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Chief Ernest Campbell of the Musqueam Nation and Chief Leonard Andrew of the Lil'wat Nation are giving a speech during the official opening ceremony of 2010 Aboriginal Pavilion or 'Chiefs' House' on February 8, 2010 at the Pavilion, located in downtown Vancouver in front of the Queen Elisabeth Theatre, prior to the start of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANIE LAMY (Photo credit should read STEPHANIE LAMY/AFP/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER - Tributes flowed in Sunday following the death of former Musqueam First Nation Chief Ernie Campbell.

The Musqueam band issued a statement Sunday, confirming Campbell's death and saying he was a "devoted husband, father and grandfather and was a strong pillar of strength in his family and community."

"Musqueam Indian Band mourns the loss of a great leader whose strong voice and leadership ensured that the Musqueam people’s issues were front and centre in Vancouver and British Columbia and on the National level," the statement said.

"He led with dignity and strength and served as a powerful voice for Musqueam."

The statement did not say when Campbell died.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark's office called Campbell a "tireless advocate" who fought hard for the rights of the Vancouver-area First Nation.

"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," Clark said.

"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.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he was shocked and saddened to hear the news.

"I always found (Campbell) to be very down-to-earth, very engaging," he said in a phone interview. "He spoke his mind...I definitely had the greatest respect for him and his leadership."

The former Musqueam chief was "a real statesman" who spearheaded various causes and projects to propel his community into prosperity, Phillip said.

The Musqueam band said Campbell was first elected as chief in the 1980s for two three-year terms. Years later, he was elected to the position again and served in the Vancouver area for over a decade before stepping down last year.

He was at the forefront of a landmark deal with the B.C. government that resolved three outstanding court cases involving the province's 2003 sale and relocation of several parcels of land that the Musqueam said fell within their traditional territory.

Those lands were transferred back to the Musqueam in 2008 as part of a so-called reconciliation agreement that also included a $20.3-million cash payment to the band.

It was also under Campbell's leadership when the Musqueam band acted as a First Nations host during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A Four Host Nations Olympics pavilion that was built for the games was re-purposed into a Musqueam cultural centre that Phillip said was "the envy of all."

Campbell was also most recently known for his active role in a campaign to protect what the Musqueam say is an ancient burial site from condo development in Vancouver.

New Democrat leader Adrian Dix also issued a statement on Sunday, calling Campbell a dignified leader and a positive force in the province.

“During his time as Chief, he ensured that the Musqueam people's rights, interests, and perspective were addressed," Dix said.

"In doing so, he inspired our provincial and municipal leaders to strive towards a more productive and respectful relationship with First Nations that benefits British Columbia as a whole."

It was not immediately known how old Campbell was.

His funeral service will be held in Vancouver on Wednesday.

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