Jus­tice af­firmed

Wagmatcook cel­e­brates grand open­ing of court­house

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIN POTTIE

Nova Sco­tia has made a step to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity through the open­ing of a one-of-a-kind jus­tice cen­tre.

The Wagmatcook court­house was of­fi­cially opened Thurs­day in con­junc­tion with Na­tional In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day.

The fa­cil­ity fol­lows one of the 82 rec­om­men­da­tions made in the Royal Com­mis­sion on the pros­e­cu­tion of Don­ald Mar­shall Jr. It also re­sponds to Calls to Ac­tion out­lined in the 2015 re­port by the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

Premier Stephen McNeil de­liv­ered a spe­cial mes­sage to fam­ily mem­bers of Mar­shall Jr. who were in at­ten­dance.

The late Mem­ber­tou man was sen­tenced to life in prison at age 17 for a mur­der he didn’t com­mit.

“I can never imag­ine hav­ing suf­fered what your par­ents suf­fered for watch­ing one of their chil­dren be de­nied ba­sic rights in a prov­ince they be­lieved in, to be in­car­cer­ated for 11 years for no other rea­son than the sys­tem was rooted in racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion and no­body was lis­ten­ing,” said McNeil.

“A coun­try that would let you go to war for them, let you go de­fend the prin­ci­ples of them, but was not there to stand with their fam­ily when they re­quired it. There is no way; there are no words that I can say to re-change that.”

Wagmatcook is now con­sid­ered the first Abo­rig­i­nal wellness and Gladue court in the prov­ince.

A wellness court at­tempts to iden­tify and ad­dress the root cause of the of­fend­ing be­hav­iour and de­velop a re­cov­ery sup­port plan that links peo­ple to ser­vices.

Mean­while, a Gladue court, named after 1999 Supreme Court of Canada de­ci­sion, is meant to con­sider broader is­sues fac­ing Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple such as the in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trauma of res­i­den­tial schools.

As part of Thurs­day’s cer­e­monies, an ea­gle feather was given to Judge Lau­rie Half­penny MacQuar­rie who now pre­sides over the pro­vin­cial court in Wagmatcook.

The sym­bol of Mi’kmaw cul­ture was brought for­ward by one of the lawyers who rep­re­sented Mar­shall Jr. in over­turn­ing his con­vic­tion.

“We are a com­mu­nity of re­la­tion­ships — that’s what I have learned from the Mi’kmaw com­mu­nity,” said Half­penny MacQuar­rie. “It is those re­la­tion­ships that have brought us here to­day.”

Mem­bers of Mar­shall Jr.’s fam­ily toured the court­room lo­cated on the lower level of the Wagmatcook Cul­ture and Her­itage Cen­tre. The fa­cil­ity first be­gan hear­ing crim­i­nal mat­ters on April 4.

“It is hard to put into words the harm done to our fam­ily — my par­ents, my brothers and sis­ters, our chil­dren, our com­mu­nity of Mem­ber­tou and our Mi’kmaw na­tion — through the wrong­ful con­vic­tion and life sen­tence of Ju­nior,” said David Mar­shall, the brother of Don­ald Mar­shall Jr.

“It is hor­ri­ble to have some­one you love locked up, but it is be­yond tragic when you know they are in­no­cent. We suf­fered the crimes com­mit­ted against him by the Cana­dian jus­tice sys­tem greatly. It changed our lives in un­count­able ways.”

The Mar­shall fam­ily says Don­ald Mar­shall Jr.’s treat­ment gen­er­ated fear and mis­trust, es­pe­cially to­ward po­lice, lawyers, judges and jails.

David Mar­shall said he hopes to see the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ad­di­tional rec­om­men­da­tions gen­er­ated from the al­most 30-year-old in­quiry into his brother’s wrong­ful con­vic­tion.

“I truly hope the only time the Mar­shall fam­ily will come be­fore you judges is to cel­e­brate such events, but I do feel that if we did come be­fore this court to­day we would be treated with the dig­nity and re­spect that my brother de­served, that we all de­serve.”

This is be­lieved to be the first time a su­pe­rior court in a Cana­dian prov­ince will hold reg­u­lar sit­tings in a First Na­tions com­mu­nity.

The Wagmatcook court fea­tures a cir­cu­lar de­sign that is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Abo­rig­i­nal heal­ing cir­cles and re­flects its unique ap­proach to jus­tice. It will be home to both pro­vin­cial and Supreme Court sit­tings and will serve res­i­dents of Wagmatcook, Way­cobah and Vic­to­ria County.

As part of its es­tab­lish­ment, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has con­trib­uted $157,000 to the project. The court­house is ex­pected to ad­dress trans­porta­tion chal­lenges for res­i­dents of Vic­to­ria County who are re­quired ap­pear in court.


Marlys Ed­wardh, a re­tired Cana­dian civil rights lawyer who helped vin­di­cate Don­ald Mar­shall Jr., car­ries a repa­tri­a­tion feather on be­half of Mar­shall’s fam­ily. A sa­cred sym­bol of First Na­tions cul­ture, the feather was later pre­sented to pre­sid­ing pro­vin­cial court judge Lau­rie Half­penny MacQuar­rie dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing of the court on Thurs­day at the Wagmatcook Cul­ture and Her­itage Cen­tre.



Mem­bers of the Nova Sco­tia ju­di­ciary, in­clud­ing pre­sid­ing judge for Wagmatcook, Lau­rie Half­penny MacQuar­rie, from left, War­ren Zim­mer and Lawrence O’Neil, at­tended the grand open­ing of the prov­ince’s new­est court­house be­lieved to be the first time a su­pe­rior court in a Cana­dian prov­ince will hold reg­u­lar sit­tings in a First Na­tions com­mu­nity.

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