SYDNEY, N.S. (CP) - Donald Marshall Jr., whose fight for justice has made him a symbol of hope and triumph for Canada's native people, is facing new legal battles.


Marshall, 55, of the Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia, has been charged with attempted murder and several other offences as a result of an altercation with another Membertou man, Duncan Gould, on Dec. 31. Details of the incident are sketchy, but Marshall is accused of trying to hit Gould with his vehicle.

RCMP Const. Paul Tobin said Wednesday there was bad blood between the two men.

"I don't have all the information on what prompted the two individuals to be feuding in the way they were," he said.

"But it started on Oct. 30, up until New Year's Eve, so obviously there are ongoing problems between the two parties."

Marshall, a Mi'kmaq whose wrongful conviction for murder in 1971 put the Nova Scotia justice system on trial, has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment. He will return to court Feb. 2.

One of Marshall's supporters spoke in his defence Wednesday, describing him as an icon of the native community.

Chief Lawrence Paul of the Millbrook First Nation, and a spokesman for the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, said he believes any problems Marshall is having can be traced back to the 11 years he spent in a federal penitentiary for a murder he did not commit.

"That must have had an awful impact on the man," said Paul. "I would say any problems he is having now could be traced back to the hard time he had when he was 17 years old and being locked up for years for a crime he didn't commit."

Marshall was wrongfully convicted in 1971 of murdering Sydney, N.S., resident Sandy Seale.

He spent 11 years in prison before being exonerated by a royal commission in 1990 that determined systemic racism in the justice system contributed to his imprisonment.

"If he is a little depressed at this time and involved in some sort of problem, I think everything should be taken into consideration, what led up to that," said Paul.

Marshall was compensated for the wrongful conviction with a lifetime pension of $1.5 million.

Paul said Marshall also may be experiencing stress because of medical problems that led to a double-lung transplant in 2003.

Marshall complained during his court appearance in Sydney on Tuesday that he had been deprived of medications, including drugs he was prescribed after the lung transplant.

"I am man enough to stand here," Marshall said at one point during the court appearance. "I need my medication. I am being crucified again."

Marshall also demanded at one point that a family member translate remarks by the judge and duty counsel Dan Burman into the Mi'kmaq language.

Judge Peter Ross spoke to Marshall about the seriousness of the charge and explained he wanted the psychiatric assessment to determine whether he was fit to stand trial.

Marshall has also been charged with uttering a death threat against Gould on Dec. 31 and, in a second count, on Oct. 30. He was also charged with dangerous driving.

Marshall is known for more than his wrongful conviction.

In 1999, a legal challenge he launched produced a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the fishing rights of natives in Atlantic Canada.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans struck deals with East Coast aboriginal bands after the court handed down the Marshall decision, which gave natives treaty rights to earn a reasonable living from a regulated fishery.

Native leaders say the ruling created jobs, brought in millions of dollars, and fostered a sense of hope in their communities.

Marshall had been charged with fishing eel illegally. He was convicted, but appealed and successfully argued he had historic treaty rights dating back to the 17th century that allowed him year-round access to the fishery.

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Now I think this will be an interesting story. They already got him once on faulty evidence and racist judges, so I would wonder if the judges treat him differently this time?