In September, 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) released its decision in R v. Marshall. Donald Marshall Jr., no stranger to Canadian law, had been convicted of catching eels out of season, without a licence, and selling them, contrary to the federal Fisheries Act. He admitted the offences, but appealed his conviction to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and then to the SCC on the grounds that the 1760–61 treaties between the Mi'kmaq and the British recognized his right, as a Mi'kmaq, to catch and sell fish, and that this right was protected under the guarantee of Aboriginal and treaty rights in the Canadian constitution. Justice Binnie, writing for the majority of the SCC, overturned the convictions. The Mi'kmaq, he held, did have treaty rights based on the 1760–61 treaties to catch and sell fish, including eels.
The Mi'kmaq were delighted. After many years and many appearances before Canadian judges (R. v. Syliboy, R. v. Issac, and R. v. Simon), it appeared that the courts were finally prepared to recognize what the Mi'kmaq had long believed: that the eighteenth century treaties were the foundation of their relationship with Canada, that the treaties were still in force, and that they guaranteed commercial hunting and fishing rights in their traditional territories.