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