NIPĒHKĀTIŠIMIN

The saga of two sisters fighting for freedom​

Nipēhkātišimin

[bay’kaa’dizimin] Saulteaux

Translation courtesy Elder Doug Peeace from Yellowquill First Nation and voiced by Lynn Cote from Cote First Nation

We are innocent.

Imagine spending a day in prison for a crime you didn’t commit.

Now add 30 years...

This is the story of Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance.

Odelia and Nerissa are from Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan.

 

On the night of February 25, 1993, they were on the farm of Anthony Dolff in nearby Kamsack along with their 14-year-old cousin Jason Keshane.

 

By the end of the night, Dolff was dead.

 

Jason confessed to killing him.

 

But all three were convicted for his death.

 

Odelia who was 19 and Nerissa, 21, were sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder.

 

They’ve maintained their innocence – but the justice system may be stacked against them.

THE SISTERS

APTN Investigates: A Life Sentence

It was a horrific crime. Anthony Dolff was stabbed 17 times - twice in the heart. He was strangled with a phone cord and had a television thrown onto his head. According to Odelia, the group was drinking heavily and things turned ugly after Dolff propositioned the women.

“He wanted to sleep with my sister,” she said. “I kind of got mad at that because I’ve been protecting my sisters all my life. I remember I pushed him away from my sister and I told him to leave my sister alone.”

Odelia, Nerissa and their 14-year-old cousin were charged and convicted for the murder. But did the evidence support the charge against Odelia and Nerissa?

“It’s a classic case of systemic discrimination and racism in the way they were treated by the police and by the court system"

James Lockyer, lawyer of Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance

WRONGFUL CONVICTION?

‘A case of potential wrongful conviction’: retired judges lobby for release of First Nations sisters

Two retired judges are putting their names – and their weight – behind the push to free two Saulteaux sisters from prison after 28 years.

Legal advocates appeal to justice minister to overturn sisters’ murder convictions

The high-profile group used Facebook Live to call attention to the murder convictions they say should be immediately overturned.

"When you have a colonial system, the way it's set up is not designed for Indigenous people at all. I believe it's actually designed to keep Indigenous people in prison."

Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples

THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

Lawyer pushing Saskatchewan Justice to downgrade murder convictions of Keeseekoose sisters

James Lockyer, a wrongful conviction lawyer, feels Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance have served their time.

Innocence Canada looking to free First Nations sisters after 3 decades in prison

The organization agrees the women suffered 'a miscarriage of justice' in Saskatchewan.

"How much longer do I have to go through this knowing that my sister and I are innocent?"

Odelia Quewezance

Odelia and Nerissa are asking Canada’s justice minister to review their case and quash their convictions

Here is what it will take.

Until then… they wait.

Want the federal justice minister to review your conviction? Here’s how.

Two Saulteaux sisters, Odelia and Nerissa Quewzance, are asking federal Justice Minister David Lametti to review their convictions of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of farmer Anthony Dolff.


The sisters have always maintained they had nothing to do with Dolff. Their cousin, Jason Keshane, confessed to the crime.


What happens now that their lawyer has filed an application for a ministerial review? Click below to learn more.

The minister of justice has been able to review a criminal conviction under federal law to determine whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice since 1892. This is set out in sections 696.1 to 696.6 of the Criminal Code.

 

The minister’s decision does not mean the convicted person is innocent. Rather, it means the case is being returned to the judicial system, where any relevant legal issues may be determined by the courts according to the law.

The minister must consider all relevant matters in assessing an application, including “new matters of significance” – usually important new information or evidence that was not previously considered by the courts.

 

If the Minister is satisfied there is a reasonable basis to conclude a miscarriage of justice likely occurred, the minister may grant the convicted person a remedy and return the case to the courts – either referring the case to a court of appeal to be heard as a new appeal or directing that a new trial be held. The minister may also refer a question to the court of appeal in the appropriate province.

The Criminal Conviction Review Group (CCRG) is a separate unit of the Department of Justice. It has five main responsibilities:


• liaising with applicants, their lawyers, agents of the provincial attorneys general, the police, and various other interested parties;


• reviewing applications for ministerial review and conducting preliminary assessments;


• conducting investigations where warranted;


• compiling the findings of investigations into an investigation report; and


• providing objective and independent legal advice to the Minister on the disposition of applications for ministerial review.


The CCRG may hire experts or arrange for scientific testing where warranted. It can also seek an opinion from the Special Advisor on Wrongful Convictions, Morris J. Fish, a former Supreme Court of Canada justice and defence lawyer.

There have been 20 “remedies” ordered since 2003 for applicants of a ministerial review. All of the applicants were men.

 

From 1988 to 2002, the data is less reliable, but out of 11 remedies during that time, 10 applicants were male and one was female.

 

A remedy is not an exoneration, but an order for a new trial or new appeal.

 

Applicants aren’t asked to self-identify for the purpose of tracking the race of applicants.

 

According to the latest report issued by the CCRG (April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021), there are presently 50 active files with the minister. Two investigations were completed and Justice Minister David Lametti issued a directive on one. Fourteen files were completed during this time.

According to their lawyer, James Lockyer, the minister is being asked to consider that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred because of the discriminatory nature of the police investigation. He’s tying his argument to the federal government’s stated desire for reconciliation – and Justice Minister David Lametti’s own acknowledgement that Canada’s justice system suffers from systemic racism.