Friday, February 17, 2017

Yesterday afternoon, His Honour Brigadier-General The Honourable J.J. Grant, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, granted a Free Pardon to the late Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy at a ceremony at Government House.   In addition, the Honourable Stephen McNeil, Premier of Nova Scotia, offered an official apology to the family of the late Grand Chief.

Grand Chief Sylliboy was 44 years old in 1927 when he was arrested and convicted under the Lands and Forests Act for hunting muskrat and possessing pelts out of season. He faced racism and discrimination throughout his court challenge.   The Grand Chief died in 1964.

A free pardon is based on innocence and recognizes that a conviction was in error. A free pardon is an extraordinary remedy and is considered only in the rarest of circumstances.  Today’s pardon is only the second time a Free Pardon has been granted, the first being to the late Viola Desmond in 2010.

During the ceremony, His Honour said, “The wrongs of the past can never be undone, but we can work together to do better for the children of this generation and of those that follow. This pardon addresses an unjust conviction against the late grand chief in the pursuit of his aboriginal and treaty rights, and it helps us acknowledge and learn from the struggles of the past and memorialize those who sought to exercise their rights."

Grand Keptin Andrew Denny spoke about the significance and special status of Grand Chief Sylliboy. In addition, George Sylliboy, who represented the late Grand Chief’s family, spoke.

Due to illness, Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy was not able to be present, but was able to witness the ceremony via a live webcast.

Drummers of Eastern Eagle also performed at the ceremony.

Many members of the late Grand Chief’s family witnessed the very moving ceremony.