GABRIEL SYLLIBOY BORN—1ST ELECTED MI’KMAQ GRAND CHIEF
Born at the Whycocomagh Reserve, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Gabriel was a Mi’kmaq religious leader and Grand Captain of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. After hereditary Chief John Denny, Jr. died in 1918, Sylliboy became the first elected Grand Chief. In 1929, Sylliboy, carrying muskrat pelts, was arrested for hunting out of season and convicted. In R v. Sylliboy, he unsuccessfully appealed the conviction on the basis of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752. Sylliboy died March 4, 1964, in Sydney, Cape Breton. In 1986, the Supreme Court of Canada, in Simon vs. The Queen, accepted Sylliboy’s defense in a case involving a Mi’kmaq member. Chief Justice Dickson wrote that “the language used [in the Sylliboy case] reflects the biases and prejudice of another era in [Canada’s] history. Such language is no longer acceptable.” In 2017, Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor J.J. Grant granted a posthumous pardon to Chief Sylliboy and the Office of the Premier of Nova Scotia issued an official apology and pardon statement.
Sources: Heather Conn, “The Silliboy Case,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 4/5/2018. Retrieved 6/11/2020, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/sylliboy-case Wikipedia Photo: John Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw, 1937. Photo of Chief Levi Poulette (L) and Grand Chief Gabriel Silliboy. Courtesy of Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax. Permissive Use. Source: Collection of Margaret Fay Shaw and John L. Campbell, Island of Canna, Scotland, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax. Reference Number: P113/ N-19,945, Page MP0899.