The name “Donald Marshall Jr.” is synonymous with “wrongful conviction” and the fight for Indigenous rights in Canada. In Truth and Conviction, Jane McMillan – Marshall’s former partner, an acclaimed anthropologist, and an original defendant in the Supreme Court’s Marshall decision on Indigenous fishing rights – tells the story of how Marshall’s fight against injustice permeated Canadian legal consciousness and revitalized Indigenous law.
Marshall was destined to assume the role of hereditary chief of Mi’kmaw Nation when, in 1971, at the age of seventeen, he was wrongly convicted of murder. He spent more than eleven years in jail before a royal commission exonerated him and exposed the entrenched racism underlying the terrible miscarriage of justice. Four years later, in 1993, he was charged with fishing eels without a licence. With the backing of Mi’kmaw chiefs and the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, he took the case all the way to the Supreme Court to vindicate Indigenous treaty rights in the landmark Marshall decision.
Marshall was only fifty-five when he died in 2009. His legacy lives on as Mi’kmaq continue to assert their rights and build justice programs grounded in customary laws and practices, key steps in the path to self-determination and reconciliation.
This book will appeal to anyone interested in the Donald Marshall story, Indigenous peoples encounters with the law, and social justice issues.