Minister of Justice orders new trial in British Columbia case following conviction review
March, 29, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario - Department of Justice Canada
The Government is committed to a fair and impartial criminal justice system that protects communities and respects the needs of victims while guarding against potential miscarriages of justice.
The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced today that following an extensive review, he has ordered a new trial for Mr. Gerald Klassen under the conviction review provisions of the Criminal Code.
Before deciding to order a new trial or appeal, the Minister of Justice must be satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred. Determining whether a miscarriage of justice likely occurred involves a close examination of information initially submitted in support of the application, followed by an in-depth investigation. A key consideration is whether the application is supported by new matters of significance, usually new information that has surfaced since the trial and appeal.
The Minister’s decision that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred is the result of the identification of new information that was not before the courts at the time of Mr. Klassen’s trial or appeal. It is not a decision about the guilt or innocence of the applicant, but rather a decision to return the matter to the courts where the relevant legal issues may be determined according to the law.
In 1995, Mr. Klassen was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1997, the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his case. He served nearly 26 years in prison before being released on bail pending ministerial review in December 2020.
Mr. Klassen’s matter has been remitted to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a new trial.
“We recognize the importance of Canadians having confidence in their justice system, one that is impartial and respects the needs of victims while protecting against potential miscarriages of justice. After a thorough review of Mr. Klassen's case, I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred and that a new trial should be ordered.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Section 696.1 of the Criminal Code provides that a person who has been convicted of an offence and who has exhausted all rights of appeal may apply to the Minister of Justice for a review of their conviction.
The Criminal Conviction Review Group of the Department of Justice conducts an investigation on behalf of the Minister of Justice. The Minister can order a new trial or appeal if satisfied that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred.
In November 2021, the Honourable Harry LaForme, former justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Honourable Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré, former judge of the Court of Quebec, submitted their report on the creation of an independent commission to consider wrongful conviction applications.
Additional information about the role of the Minister of Justice in the current criminal conviction review process in Canada can be found at the following link: Criminal Conviction Review Process.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
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