Joy Mannette, editor,
Elusive Justice: Beyond the Marshall Inquiry
(Fernwood, 1992)

If you are not familiar with the Marshall Inquiry, here is the short version. In November 1971, Donald "Junior" Marshall, age 17, was found guilty of the May 28, 1971 murder of Sanford "Sandy" William Seale. Marshall, the son of the Grand Chief of the Mi'kmaq Nation, served 11 years in prison, all the while adamantly professing his innocence. He was finally freed after an appeal hearing in 1982. The actual killer was charged in 1983. After three trials, he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to one year in a local correctional center.

In 1986 the Canadian government established the Royal Commission to do an inquiry into the Marshall case and establish what went wrong. However, the government continued to state there had been no wrongdoings on their part, and that the conviction was entirely the fault of Junior Marshall. Meanwhile, the position of chief, which should have passed to him upon his father's death, will never be his because of this ordeal.

This book contains five essays about the impact of this situation and the analysis and interpretation by both, natives and non-natives. The unanimous agreement is that the inquiry was a sham and there has been, and continues to be, a miscarriage of justice. Basically, the bottom line is that for the Mi'kmaq people, there is no justice in Canada.

These essays analyze everything from the wording of the order to the commissioners to the difference in the way Mi'kmaq (and other native peoples) express themselves. The final essay presents the Mi'kmaq system for problem resolution and how their social structure functions.

Like so many people, I believed Canada led the world in human rights and justice for all. This book is the second I have read lately that shocked me beyond words. These essays were meant to be hard-hitting and to shake the foundations of your comfort. They do exactly that. They enrage you and make you want to take action to change the injustice in the world, beginning with the Canadian government and its treatment of the Mi'kmaq!

The voices in these essays are distinctly different, but all are well-written, intellectual pieces. They definitely are not dry or academic in nature; but are passionate, fiery pieces that leave you with much to contemplate.

Elusive Justice is definitely worth reading thoroughly.

All proceeds from the sales of Elusive Justice: Beyond the Marshall Inquiry go to a special scholarship fund for Mi'kmaq students, known as "the mi'kmawey." Your purchase of this book does help make the world a better place for at least one student.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

6 September 2008

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