By Dan Jones

Two sisters, who have spent nearly 30 years in custody for murder are granted bail as a federal review of their 1994 conviction takes place.

Nerissa and Odelia Quewezance of the Keeseekoose First Nation have long maintained their innocence in the death of Kamsack-area farmer Joseph Dolf. Their cousin has taken sole responsibility for the murder.

Despite this, the sisters were sentenced to life in prison, with parole eligibility after 14 years.

In a Court of King’s Bench in Yorkton Monday, Justice Donald Layh said he is satisfied with the release plan for the Quewezance sisters, that they do not pose a flight risk, if asked to return to incarceration and that the release does not pose a risk to public safety or compromise the public confidence in the justice system.

Justice Layh did outline that Nerissa and Odelia have a history of breaking bail conditions in the past, but this does not prevent their release.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti is considering whether there was a miscarriage of justice of their convictions. He could dismiss their appeal, order a new trial or refer it to the Appeals Court. This outcome could take years.

Justice Layh said the sisters have a strong application for ministerial review. They argue that evidence presented at their trial was flawed. The pair contend they were interrogated at the Kamsack RCMP by all male officers, while heavily under the influence. Despite both speaking to independent counsel and invoking their right not to give statements, the pair were interrogated several times after that.

They accuse the Kamsack RCMP detachment of ignoring a court order to transfer them to the Pine Grove Correctional Centre, instead, they were kept incarcerated for days at the detachment.

Their convictions pre-date Gladue considerations for Indigenous offenders. Justice Layh acknowledged that the sisters are the first Indigenous women to apply for Ministerial review of their convictions. He noted that the sisters attended residential school, their family suffered the effects of intergenerational trauma due to residential school and that they were raised in an abusive environment.

The Crown opposed bail and the release plan, but Justice Layh is confident in the support provided to Nerissa and Odelia.

They must abide by several bail conditions. They are expected to be released from custody today.