The federal justice department said “there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in this matter.”
A letter written on behalf of federal Minister of Justice David Lametti by a legal agent for the department to their lawyer, James Lockyer, states that “it has been determined there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in this matter.”
Odelia Quewezance visited Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday with Kim Beaudin, National Vice-Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, to call on Lametti to intervene and for a new trial to be ordered for her and her sister.
They were convicted for the February 1993 stabbing death of Anthony Dolff in his home but have long maintained they didn’t kill him.
A teen boy who was sentenced to four years under the former Young Offenders Act (predecessor to the Youth Criminal Justice Act), admitted he was with the sisters in Dolff’s home and was the one who wrapped a telephone cord around the 70-year-old man’s neck, stabbed him and dropped a TV on him.
The case drew the attention of late advocate David Milgaard, who called for the sisters to be released.
“I wish he would have been alive to see it all,” Beaudin said on Thursday.
The people advocating for the sisters have been hoping for this decision and described it as a “watershed moment,” Neaudin added.
In an email, the federal justice department said it can’t comment on the particulars of any application for privacy reasons.
The Criminal Conviction Review Group within the justice department reviews applications on the justice minister’s behalf and advises the minister on the appropriate remedy, if any; the minister then determines whether the application should be dismissed or allowed.
At the news conference in Ottawa, Beaudin said the sisters faced an all-white jury during their trial and called on governments to ensure Indigenous people are tried by a jury of their peers.
“Otherwise the lasting effects of colonialism will continue to send our women and girls behind bars,” he said.
Odelia Quewezance, speaking at the news conference, said 30 years in prison is cruel and unusual punishment.
“I do suffer with (PTSD) and all that stuff, because sitting in prison for so many years wondering why — why, why, why? — it angers me,” she said.
“I’m so institutionalized. I know I didn’t deserve this.”
Odelia, who is on day parole, was in Ottawa with permission from the Parole Board of Canada. Her sister was not granted parole and is incarcerated in Fraser Valley Institution for Women, Lockyer said.
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice, in an email, said Public Prosecutions did not find a basis to reconsider the verdicts outside the federal review process after further examination of the Quewezance case. It said Public Prosecutions is cooperating with the federal review and is in the process of providing disclosure to the reviewing authorities.
The ministry said it will not comment further due to the review.