As Betty & I drive from our campsite at Whycocomagh Provincial Park to Baddeck, Nova Scotia, I can’t help but think back to an interesting encounter in the early 1990’s. David Milgaard had recently been released from Manitoba’s Stony Mountain Penitentiary, after serving 23 years in federal prison for a murder that he did not commit. The John Howard Society of Canada was holding its Annual Meeting in Baddeck, and I arranged for David to be flown in as guest speaker.
Donald Marshall Jr. had similarly been wrongfully convicted of murder, with a high profile 1990 royal commission producing 82 recommendations for fundamental changes to the justice process. It turned out that Donald, who was originally from the Membertou Reserve in Sydney, Nova Scotia, was living just down the road from Baddeck. David and Donald had never met, but each was familiar with the other’s case due to national – and some international – attention.
Donald (known as Junior to his family and friends) graciously agreed to pick up David and me at our hotel in Baddeck, and drive us back to his home on St. Patrick’s Channel. That night Donald’s family gathered at his home to recognize his brother’s birthday, and we were invited to stay for a traditional Mi’kmaq celebration. David and I ended up spending the night, with Donald and David sharing many heavy conversations about their injustice experiences. It was a most unique encounter, and I have always been glad to have played a role in their meeting, and to have shared the many learnings from their life stories.
It has now been a quarter century since that get-together, but my thoughts go back to that time as we journey the TransCanada Highway from Whycocomagh to Baddeck. With the help of the Association In Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, Donald and David played a significant role in addressing the plight of those in prison for crimes they did not commit. Donald passed away in 2009, and David continues to encourage others from his home in Calgary, Alberta. A big “miigwetch” to them both!