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Sask. woman in prison for decades for murder back behind bars after violating parole

Nerissa Quewezance was granted day parole in mid December and arrested in late December

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A Keeseekoose First Nation woman who has been in prison for decades for a murder in Saskatchewan is back behind bars after violating her parole conditions.

Nerissa Quewezance – who says she and her sister Odelia are innocent – was granted day parole in mid December 2021. She was arrested in late December and appears in Vancouver Provincial Court on March 3.

The Quewezance sisters were sentenced to life in prison on a second-degree murder charge in 1994 for the death of 70-year-old Anthony Joseph Dolff of Kamsack in 1993.

The sisters have had the support of advocates including Kim Beaudin, national vice-chief for Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), David Milgaard, Senator Kim Pate, and Innocence Canada lawyer David Lockyer.

In addition, retired judges Justice Harry LaForme and Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traore – who were appointed by federal Justice Minister David Lametti to head the creation of a commission to review wrongful convictions - say the conviction of Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance has signs of a miscarriage of justice.

Milgaard and CAP stand behind Quewezance sisters

Kim Beaudin, national vice-chief for Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) has been advocating for the sisters’ release and says he will continue to support Nerissa even though she violated her parole.

“The bottom line is she is innocent,” said Beaudin. “She just wanted out, out, out.”

He added that the “archaic justice system is designed to put Indigenous people in prison the rest of their life.”

Likewise, prisoner rights advocate David Milgaard said he still supports the Quewezance sisters adding that he recognizes that Nerissa just wanted her freedom.

“I understand,” he said. “She didn’t like the idea of being in an institution even though she got day parole.

“She didn’t like the idea of being locked up at all and I don’t blame her. I don’t blame her at all. She did what she did because she just didn’t like being in an institution. Nobody does. Institutions only hurt people.

“She was like me; I didn’t like being locked up in any way," added Milgaard, who was the victim of one of Canada's most notorious miscarriages of justice. In 1969 he was arrested when he was only 16. In 1970, at the age of 17, he was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller and sent to prison for life. 

He spent almost 23 years behind bars before he was released in 1992 and exonerated by DNA evidence in 1997. That same DNA evidence linked serial rapist Larry Fisher from North Battleford to Miller’s brutal murder. 

Milgaard escaped from prison a couple of times. He survived being shot in the back when fleeing from police after he had escaped in 1980 for 77 days.

Innocence Canada fights for the sisters

Lockyer represents Nerissa and Odelia and has asked the Saskatchewan government to reduce their three-decades old second-degree murder convictions to manslaughter.

Odelia is at a healing lodge in Manitoba.