On April 14 and 15, a conference titled ‘Rough Waters: The Legacy of the Marshall Decisions’ will be held on campus, and the Mt. A community is encouraged to attend. The idea was brought to the table by Dr. Mario Levesque, Hon. Graydon Nicholas, and Dr. Ken Coates, and the conference’s purpose is to bring together Indigenous leaders, academics, policy makers, and students to reflect on the Marshall decisions and how to move forward. One of the speakers at the conference will be Donald Marshall Jr.’s former partner, Jane McMillian.
“Dialogue is crucial, and we can resolve problems through discussions. The Marshall decisions are significant because they changed the course of history,” says Dr. Levesque when speaking about the significance of the conference.
In 1993, Donald Marshall Jr. was charged for selling eels without a license. Marshall’s case was appealed and heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that the treaties protected Marshall’s right to fish and sell for commercial use.
The Marshall decision is considered a landmark ruling as it recognized treaty rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples. Although the Supreme Court’s Marshall decisions affirmed Indigenous rights to the fisheries, Dr. Levesque says that he is concerned about the “deterioration of Indigenous and settler relations, especially in New Brunswick.”
The government’s mistreatment of Indigenous people inspired Dr. Levesque to organize the conference. For example, he claims that Premier Blaine Higgs fails to address the concerns of Indigenous people by “cancelling tax agreements, failing to admit systemic racism exists, dismissing land claims, and not initially recognizing Truth and Reconciliation Day as a holiday.”
There are 12 students involved in organizing the workshop, who are receiving three credits towards their degree for their work.
Nana Ofori-Amanfo, a fourth year student doing an Honours in the International Relations program, is a roundtable scribe for the conference and is enjoying the course. In the class, the students are studying the Marshall decisions, treaties, and current events pertaining to Indigenous issues. She reports that, “so far it’s been amazing, and Dr. Levesque is amazing.” Ofori-Amanfo continues by saying, “I come from a country where we didn’t really know about Indigenous history, and I have now learned about Indigenous rights, treaties, and history.”
According to Ofori-Amanfo, the course has taught her about the significance of the Marshall decisions. She believes that we should “reflect upon the treaties that were overlooked in the past.”
“[The conference] is an opportunity to learn from people who know about the issues and uplift their voices,” said Anna Hamilton, a workshop organizer for the conference.
Oliver Batchilder, a communications coordinator for the event, agrees, saying, “The conference can highlight how there is still a lot of work that has to be done, and not everything that could be done is being done right now.”
Batchilder, a second-year PPE student, hopes that the conference will identify other key issues that have to be addressed. He says that the event has the potential “to use lessons from the past to move forward.”
The Mt. A campus resides on unceded Mi’kmaq territory, and many are still searching for Chris Metallic, an Indigenous student who went missing in 2012. The conference is pressing because there is a “deep-rooted Indigenous history in the Maritimes,” says Hamilton, a fourth-year political science and art history student.
The class has met with Elder William Nevin and Patty Musgrave, the Indigenous Affairs Coordinator at Mt. A, as part of their cultural competency training. Dr. Levesque explains how it was incredibly valuable to learn about Indigenous knowledge transmission from Elder Nevin and Musgrave. He explains how history and knowledge are largely told from a Eurocentric perspective. Dr. Levesque concludes by saying, “a part of history was erased, and we need to better understand things to be able to move forward together.”
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