Mi'kmaq Culture

Pardon possible for Mi’kmaq leader who fought for treaty rights

‘Reconciliation means taking action. Reconciliation takes courage’

Deputy Premier Diana Whalen speaks at the Treaty Day Awards Ceremony at the World Trade and Convention Centre, Halifax.
Deputy Premier Diana Whalen speaks at the Treaty Day Awards Ceremony at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax.   Delaney MacKay

The Nova Scotia government is considering a pardon for Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy, a Mi’kmaq leader who fought for treaty rights, Deputy Premier Diana Whalen said Monday at Treaty Day ceremonies in Halifax.

Whalen received a standing ovation as she deleivered the news in her opening remarks.

Sylliboy, who died in 1963, was convicted in 1928 under the Provincial Lands and Forests Act for illegally possessing 14 muskrat pelts.

“Premier Stephen McNeil fully supports this decision to recognize that Grand Chief Sylliboy hunted in accordance with his right to hunt wildlife as a Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia,” said Whalen.

She said the pardon is symbolic of other Mi’kmaq who were treated unfairly during what is referred to as an era of “treaty denial.”

Whalen said Sylliboy acted with courage and integrity as a Mi’kmaq leader by hunting at a time when aboriginal rights “were not recognized with the full weight that we accord them now,” as part of the Canadian Constitution.

Grand Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, Andrew Denny, said he has asked the premier for closure for the “injustices suffered” by Sylliboy, his great-grandfather.

“It fills my heart with hope when I hear today that all of 90 years after … the province is taking steps to right that wrong,” he said.

Grand Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, Andrew Denny, speaks at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax on Monday.
Grand Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, Andrew Denny, speaks at the Treaty Day event.   Delaney MacKay

Truth and Reconciliation

Denny discussed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada during his speech. The commission investigated abuse at native residential schools, which separated aboriginal children from their familes and operated as recently as 1996. The commission’s report offers a blueprint for creating better understanding between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

“Reconciliation, that’s the word I like the best because it acknowledges that we are in this together. Reconciliation also means taking action. Reconciliation takes courage,” said Denny.

Treaty Day commemoration is an annual celebration of the achievements and leadership of Mi’kmaq elders and youth. It began in 1986 when then-Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. proclaimed every Oct. 1 Treaty Day to recognize the relationship between Nova Scotia and Mi’kmaq people.

This year’s 30th Treaty Day event took place at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax. Monday’s event marked one year since the province and the Mi’kmaq people launched the Treaty Education Nova Scotia initiative.

 

2016 Award Winners:

  • Grand Chief Donald Marshall Senior Memorial Elder Award
  • Lottie Mae Johnson (Eskasoni)
  • Stephen Joseph Julian (Sipekne’katik)
  • Chief Noel Doucette Memorial Youth Achievement Award
  • Julian Marshall (Membertou)
  • Trent Lynds (Sipekne’katik)
  • Sister Dorothy Moore Educational Scholarship
  • Julia Marshall (Eskasoni)
  • Giselle Stevens (Eskasoni)
  • Keenan Bernard (Eskasoni)
  • Shanna Francis (Eskasoni)
  • Grand Chief Donald Marshall Senior Memorial Scholarship
  • Graduate: Natalie Denny (Eskasoni)
  • Undergraduate: Charlotte Paul (Glooscap)