Minister of Justice orders new trial in Manitoba cases following conviction review
June 22, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada
A fair and impartial criminal justice system is one 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. Brian Anderson and Mr. Allan Woodhouse 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. This determination 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, such as new information that has surfaced since the trial and appeal.
The Minister has determined that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred. This is the result of the identification of new information that was not before the courts at the time of Mr. Anderson and Mr. Woodhouse’s trials or appeals. The Minister’s decision to order a new trial is not a decision about the guilt or innocence of the applicants. It is a decision to return the matter to the courts where the relevant legal issues may be determined according to the law.
In 1974, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Woodhouse, both Indigenous men, were convicted of a single count of non-capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for ten years. Their appeals to the Manitoba Court of Appeal were dismissed on November 8, 1974. In 1975, Mr. Anderson sought and was denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Mr. Anderson was released on parole in 1987 and Mr. Woodhouse in 1990. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Woodhouse submitted applications for criminal conviction review in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
“Supporting a fair and impartial criminal justice system that respects the needs of victims while protecting against potential miscarriages of justice is essential to furthering Canada’s confidence in our justice system. After a thorough review of Mr. Anderson and Mr. Woodhouse’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., K.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.
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.
On February 16, 2023, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced Bill C-40 (Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act (David and Joyce Milgaard’s Law)) to amend the Criminal Code to establish an independent commission to review, investigate, and decide which criminal cases should be returned to the justice system due to a potential miscarriage of justice. The Bill completed second reading in the House of Commons on June 21, 2023.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
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