An analysis of the key events and an exploration of the meaning and implications of First Nations' legal rights.
In The Marshall Decision and Native Rights Ken Coates explains the cross-cultural, legal, and political implications of the recent Supreme Court decision on the Donald Marshall case. He describes the events, personalities, and conflicts that brought the Maritimes to the brink of a major confrontation between Mi'kmaq and the non-Mi'kmaq fishers in the fall of 1999, detailing the bungling by federal departments and the lack of police preparedness. He shows how political, business, and Mi'kmaq leaders in the Maritimes handled the volatile situation, urging non-violence and speaking out against racism, in contrast to the way federal and regional leaders have responded in other parts of the country. Legal victories such as Marshall, argues Coates, are a double-edged sword that provide greater legal clarity but expand the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada.
Coates recounts the history of Mi'kmaq-white contact in the region and considers the impact of native rights on natural resources, showing that the costs will be borne mainly by rural Canadians. By placing the local and regional reaction to the Marshall decision in the broader historical, national, and international context of indigenous political and legal rights The Marshall Decision and Native Rights shows how little Canada has learned from three decades of First Nations legal conflicts and how far the country is from meaningful reconciliation.