After 29 years in prison, Nerissa Quewezance makes parole – again

‘This is a very important step for Nerissa towards her freedom and towards her belief in herself,’ says lawyer.

Indigenous women

Nerissa Quewezance and her sister Odelia are mounting a case of wrongful conviction. Photo: Facebook

A Saulteaux woman from Saskatchewan convicted of a murder she says she did not commit was granted day parole Thursday.

Her lawyer, James Lockyer, said the decision means Nerissa Quewezance will be back at Anderson Lodge Healing Centre in Vancouver within 30 days.

“This is a very important step for Nerissa towards her freedom and towards her belief in herself,”  Lockyer told APTN News following the virtual hearing.

Lockyer represents Nerissa and her older sister, Odelia, who are Saulteaux from Keeseekoose First Nation, in a bid to reduce or remove their second-degree murder convictions.

The women were present during the brutal killing of farmer Anthony Joseph Dolff outside Kamsack, Sask., in 1993, but say they did not cause his death.

Innocence Canada
Innocence Canada senior counsel James Lockyer is working to free two Indigenous sisters from prison. Photo: APTN file

Their male cousin confessed to the crime and was sentenced to five years. The women have always maintained their innocence despite each being sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole until after 10 years.

Older sister Odelia continues to serve her term in a western Canadian healing lodge while Nerissa is in a B.C. women’s facility after being arrested in July for violating her latest parole conditions.

Lockyer said letters of reference from two retired judges (Harry LaForme and Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré), a sitting senator (Kim Pate), and a high-profile exoneree (David Milgaard) spoke volumes in Nerissa’s favour.

“I had tremendous support letters,” he said. “We had about 10 of them and they were very powerful.”

Kim Beaudin, vice-chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, was approved by the Parole Board of Canada to observe the virtual parole hearing, along with Pate and Milgaard.

Refused permission

APTN, however, and other members of the media were denied observer status.

Lockyer said Karley Scott represented the Parole Board and granted the request for day parole.

A week ago, Innocence Canada agreed to add the Quewezance sisters to its roster of wrongful conviction cases.

Lockyer, who will remain lead attorney, recently asked Saskatchewan Justice to consider substituting the sisters’ second-degree conviction for manslaughter and releasing them for time served.

He also said he will also ask B.C. to withdraw its unlawfully-at-large charges against Nerissa for breaching parole.

“I’ve told the sisters I’m going to have them out next year – in 2022,” he said Thursday. “I don’t often make statements like that, but I’m going to have them out.

“I’m not letting go of this one…It’s a priority for me because it’s such a miscarriage of justice.”

Correction: The original story said Anthony Dolff was murdered in 1994. It has been corrected to say 1993. 

Online Journalist / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.

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