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Race, racism and the university: a SOSA conversation
In 1989, a Commission was formed to look into the wrongful conviction in 1971 of Donald Marshall Jr., of the Membertou First Nation, for the murder of Sandy Seale, a Black Nova Scotian. By the time Marshall was acquitted in 1983, the case had revealed the systemic racism lodged deep within the Canadian criminal justice system and had sparked community mobilizations calling for justice. SOSA Professor Emeritus Donald Clairmont served on the Marshall Commission, bringing academic expertise to the inquiry and, in turn, bringing the concerns it raised back to the university.
On April 4, SOSA faculty joined other colleagues to discuss the legacies of the Marshall Commission, specifically looking at how the University and the SOSA department have grappled with social justice issues in relation to Black and Mi'kmaq Nova Scotians, as citizens and students. It also addressed past and present state of relations between dominant Nova Scotian institutions and Black and Mi’kmaq communities.
Panellists included Dr. L. Jane McMillan, a SOSA alum who now teaches Anthropology at St. Francis Xavier University, Dr. Afua Cooper (outgoing James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies), Michelle Williams (director, Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative, Schulich School of Law), Diana Lewis (SOSA lecturer and coordinator, Indigenous Studies Program), Pictou Landing First Nation Director of Education Sheila Francis, and African Nova Scotian leader and activist Lynn Jones. The event was organized by SOSA’s Dr. Karen Foster as the department’s contribution to Dalhousie’s Bicentennial Celebrations.