A pair of Indigenous sisters who have spent 30 years behind bars for a murder that someone else confessed to are finally free after they were released on bail Monday in Saskatchewan.The government needs to ensure such a miscarriage of justice is never perpetrated again, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) said.
Nerissa and Odelia Quewezance were finally granted bail at a Saskatchewan courthouse Monday.
For three decades, the women were bounced through a justice system filled with racism and prejudice and now, finally, justice has been done, CAP’s National Chief said.
“Today’s decision finally brings a small piece of justice to these women,” said Elmer St. Pierre. “Canada’s justice system was determined to keep these Indigenous women behind bars, despite overwhelming evidence against their conviction. The women will now be able to start to heal, but the federal government must ensure this never happens again.”
In 1993, The sisters were introduced to Canada’s justice system when they were wrongfully convicted of murdering Saskatchewan farmer Joseph Dolff.
A juvenile acquaintance of the sisters repeatedly confessed to the crime, but the justice system decided to ignore the truth and keep the sisters locked up for more than three decades, CAP said.
Last year, the federal government finally launched a review of the sisters’ case – a move that could grant an appeal of the cases or see them exonerated.
CAP national vice-chief Kim Beaudin said Indigenous people are still over-represented in Canada’s justice system and called on the government to stop locking up Indigenous people for the crime of being Indigenous.
“It’s hard to imagine how these two women survived for 30 years, wrongfully convicted and floundering in a racist justice system determined to keep them locked up,” he said. “Despite today’s victory, Indigenous peoples continue to fill courtrooms and prisons at alarming rates. I sincerely hope governments take this as a wake-up call and immediately make the needed investments and end the systemic racism that plagues their justice systems.”
The sisters, from the Keeseekoose First Nation, have maintained their innocence ever since their arrest. Odelia Quewezance was 20 years old and her sister was 18 when they were arrested. Both sisters attended Residential School.
By: Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter