Sociology Index


Donald Marshall, a Micmac, spent 11 years in prison before he was found to be innocent. Donald Marshall Jr. spent 11 years in jail for a murder he did not commit. Marshall Inquiry is a Royal Commission of Inquiry initiated in September of 1987 to investigate the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Donald Marshall Jr. for the 1971 death of Sandy Seale in Sydney Nova Scotia. When he was finally acquitted, the appeal court still called him the author of his own misfortune. The release of the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution in 1989, was a turning point for the Micmaq to regain authority over all aspects of their lives, to counter colonization, and to govern themselves.

After a fight lasting almost two decades, Marshall's name was finally cleared. The same cannot be said for the police, prosecutors and judges who wrongfully convicted the Mi'kmaq man. A 16,000-page royal commission report accuses them of racism, incompetence and miscarriage of justice at every turn.

Mi’kmaq justice Royal Commission into Donald Marshall’s wrongful conviction.

The opening line of the Royal Commission report reads, “The criminal justice system failed Donald Marshall, Jr. at virtually every turn from his arrest and wrongful conviction for murder in 1971 up to, and even beyond, his acquittal by the Court of Appeal in 1983.”

“We‘re all aware of what happened to Donald Marshall, Jr.,” says Membertou’s Chief Terry Paul. “He was falsely arrested, falsely charged, falsely convicted and falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.”

“What has happened in Mi’kmaw communities which is a tremendous success,” says McMillan, “is a creation of the Mi’kmaw Legal Support Network, the evolution of a customary law process, the really significant work of the court workers and the translators have helped Mi’kmaw people in Nova Scotia.”

Howard Epstein. Halifax - NDP Justice critic Howard Epstein said today the provincial justice system still has a long way to go to establish the fairness and equality recommended by the Marshall Inquiry ten years ago. Today is the tenth anniversary of the report of the Marshall Inquiry and there is still much work to do, Epstein said.

Mr. Baker said his government would not require law firms gaining government contracts to open their doors to graduates of Dalhousie's Aboriginal Black and Mi' kmaq law program, a program that grew out of the Marshall Inquiry report. Epstein said Justice Minister Michael Baker would send a signal of his government's commitment to the principles of the Marshall report by promising now to enforce the hiring guidelines being developed by a committee examining the minority hiring practices of Halifax law firms.

Epstein called the Marshall Inquiry and report an event of national importance. It eliminated the province's two-tier justice system and went a long way toward creating a fair and equal system.