Yesterday was National Indigenous Peoples Day.
In Wagmatcook First Nation, Nova Scotia, the opening of the Wagmatcook Courthouse marked the day. The Courthouse is one of the recommendations from the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution, published nearly 30 years ago.
Donald Marshall Jr. was convicted of the murder of Sandy Seale in 1971. Marshall was sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was upheld until 1983 when it was overturned as a result of Marshall’s mercy application to the Minister of Justice. A mercy application allows the Minister of Justice to order an appeal if the Minister is satisfied that there was a miscarriage of justice. Roy Ebsary was eventually convicted of Seale’s murder and received a three-year sentence, later reduced to one year.
Wagmatcook is considered the province’s first Aboriginal Wellness and Gladue Court. As a Gladue court, it is meant to consider social issues facing Indigenous Peoples when sentences are handed down. As a wellness court, its aim is to identify and address the root cause of the offending behaviour and establish a plan that will attempt to rehabilitate before sentencing. Sentencing can be delayed up to 24 months.
The Wagmatcook Court is the first superior court in Canada to hold regular sittings in a First Nations community and is meant to increase alignment with Indigenous cultures. For instance, it has a circular design that reflects the use of healing circles and it also allows offenders to accept responsibility for their action. Both provincial and Supreme Court sittings will take place at the court.
This blog post was written by a CCLA Volunteer. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA.