OTTAWA, Ont. - The federal government is reviewing the 1994 murder convictions of sisters Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance in the death of Kamsack-area farmer Anthony Joseph Dolff.
A letter written on behalf of federal Justice Minister David Lametti has been sent to the sisters’ lawyer James Lockyer of Innocence Canada.
“It has been determined there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in this matter,” states the letter.
Odelia Quewezance, Kim Beaudin, National Vice-Chief of Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Senator Kim Pate, and Lockyer held a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Thursday calling on Lametti to intervene and order a new trial for the sisters.
“This is exciting news that after 30 years of a colossal injustice, the women are on step closer to freedom,” said Beaudin Friday. “It’s very symbolic the news comes on the same day Odelia travelled to Ottawa to plead her case directly to the Justice Minister. It must be fate.”
The matter should now proceed to the investigation stage of the conviction review process while the women’s lawyer must apply for bail.
The sisters’ cousin – who was a youth at the time - previously confessed on APTN that he is the one who killed Dolff. The youth was sentenced to only four years in prison.
Neither of the sisters pleaded guilty to the murder and they continue to maintain their innocence.
Retired judges Justice Harry LaForme and Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traore – who were appointed by federal Justice Minister David Lametti in 2021 to head the creation of an independent Criminal Case Review Commission to review wrongful convictions - say the conviction of Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance has signs of a miscarriage of justice.
Advocate for the wrongfully convicted, the late David Milgaard, called on Saskatchewan’s Justice Minister to exonerate Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance. He also called on Lametti's office to intervene.
In May 2021, Senator Pate said there needed to be an immediate review of the convictions of Nerissa and Odelia Quewezance.
Beaudin said Canada’s justice system wrongfully convicted Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance of murder.
"Their cousin, who was 14 at the time, has repeatedly confessed to the crime. Racism, residential schools, a biased justice system and police all contributed to this monumental failure."
Odelia was granted day parole earlier this year and Nerissa is in custody in Vancouver, B.C. after breaching day parole conditions.
According to Canada's prison ombudsman, Indigenous women make up 50 per cent of the female population in Canada's correctional system.