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Colonial Traditions, Co‐optations, and Mi'kmaq Legal Consciousness

  • L. Jane McMillan

In 1996 a provincial court was established at Eskasoni Mi'kmaq Community in Nova Scotia, Canada, in response to overwhelming evidence confirming the failures of the Canadian legal system to provide justice for Indigenous peoples, and as a specific recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution. Marshall, a Mi'kmaq wrongfully convicted of murder, served eleven years of a life sentence before proving his innocence. The importation of provincial legal culture into an Indigenous community creates tensions and contradictions surrounding the legitimacy, authenticity, and efficacy of Indigenous laws. The ontological conflicts that arise from the imposition of a justice system integrally linked with colonization, criminalization, and assimilation cannot be resolved through indigenization of court staff and administrative conveniences. The Mi'kmaq continue to assert their laws and articulate their legal consciousness against the co‐optation of dominant system, with mixed results.

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