Carrie M. Best/A Digital Archive

Transcript of presentation to the Donald Marshall Inquiry, Halifax, N.S. Chairman, Mr. Thomas R. Berger, Nov. 1988:

Thank you so very much. It will be difficult for me to speak to you about my involvement in the pursuit of justice in the three or four minutes that I have been allotted. Memories crowd upon me, and I find it very difficult not to become emotional. And, firstly, I say, Justice Berger, that I want to thank you so much for this body. Thank you so much. It isn't hard for me to get into a group like this it is, I mean. I have tried, believe me. And I see so many people here that I have been associated with over a period of 50 years, from all over this country. Lloyd Perry, Dr. Traoure, Wilson Head, Dr. Johnson, McCurdy. And suddenly I don't feel alone. I feel that all the heartaches and all the struggles and all the things that I have gone through has been worth it.

And first I want to say to you, Rocky (lawyer Rocky Jones), that I have never been as proud of any member of my race in my 85 years as I was of you today. I will not say that none of us could do better. I will go further than that and say that none of us could have done as well. And I said to you jokingly a little while ago, "You have come a long way, baby."

Forty-five years ago I had a small newspaper. And I came to Halifax a young woman with a dream, to see if I could get a little advertising to help pay for the cost of the publishing of a paper. I stopped at a store on Barrington Street. The operator was Mr. Manuel Zive, a Jewish merchant. I went in with my little 4 X 6 sheet. And I told him that I wanted to have something to say about racial understanding, because things were not good. He said to me, "You are just a small voice crying in the wilderness, but keep crying." And he went back into his office and he gave me a cheque for $50.00, which in those days was a lot of money. I would give anything if Manny Zive could have been here today, to know that I am still crying in the wilderness, but I am not crying alone anymore.

And I would just like to ask the Commission if they really know the power of the justice system in Nova Scotia. Do you know the awesome power with which you are dealing? Do you know that it took four years for the Attorney General to answer a letter that was certified and registered? I want to know if you knew that it took the Premier that long to even acknowledge that he had been written about an injustice. And, finally, sometimes they say God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. I can't believe he uses politics, but I think he did in this case. I had the thought that I would put at the bottom of my letter carbon copy to The Honourable Alexa McDonough and The Honourable Vince MacLean. And, suddenly, the next day I got a letter from the Premier. One line, but it was a toe in the door. "I have received your letter and have noted its contents." So I think we are making progress. I will not keep you, because I know everyone is tired. But I want you to know that I am a widow of a World War veteran, I have the honour of being made a member and then an officer of the Order of Canada. I have an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Francis Xavier. I have so many awards and plaques in my living room that my daughter has promised to throw them out so she can see the walls. And I have come to the awful conclusion, as I near the end of my life, that there is absolutely no difference between Donald Marshall, a 17-year old Indian, and Carrie Best, Order of Canada, in the justice system in Nova Scotia. And I say that on the basis of absolute research. I am a journalist. And I have kept a complete copy of every letter I have ever written, of every survey that was ever taken, of every response that I have had. And I would be most happy, Justice Berger, to present it to the Commission, if you would like to have it. If you really want to know what the justice system of Nova Scotia is in relation to blacks and Indians, I will give it to you. I can only say that I have considered that I am not living under British law. I am under the Gag Law of 1885 of the United States of America, this atrocious enactment that said, in essence, that no black has any right that a white person needs to recognize, and they cannot get justice in a court of law. In a sense, we have been living under the Gag Law of April 3rd, 1885 for 131 years, although long since abolished. And many may feel that this law has died. It didn't die. It limped across the undefended border of the United States into Canada. So much for free trade. We live under a mind-over-matter government. We don't mind because you just don't matter. And I would like very much to recall -- I know you're all familiar with the words of William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist in fighting slavery, which is just the mother of racism ... there is no difference between racism and slavery. And I know you recall his famous words: "I will not retreat. I will not equivocate. I will not retreat a single inch. And I will be heard." And that is my prayer. It may be my last that I'll ever make in public. But I will die fighting injustice.

And I ask you to join forces with us, with the power that you have, and bring this awful system of racism in Nova Scotia to an end by letting the Attorney General and the Premier and his ministers know that we will no longer tolerate this injustice. That we are human beings, that we have fought for this country, we have built it, we have made our contribution. And we will be treated as citizens.

I am terrified of the justice system of Nova Scotia. I have been fighting for 13 years to keep from going before it. And I have had at my side black influential intellectuals from all over the country, three Ph.D.s, five MBAs, three MDs, unlimited resources of intelligence and will. And I will not go before the justice system of Nova Scotia until this Commission tells me that I will be treated fairly. And I throw that challenge out to you, that you send that message out to them. I will take other means to get justice. I will surround the lands that the Province of Nova Scotia stole from me. I am suing them for $40 million, because a mine was found on my property. I own it. I have paid tax on it since 1969. And I had a lawyer already engaged who told me, "I will personally go out there and put a rope around that building." He's working for the government now. And I cannot get a lawyer. I cannot get a lawyer that will take my case to court. And I will not go before the court. And I would ask the Commission to recommend help me to do this. The deadline is December the 15th.

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