One of the sisters convicted in the 1993 murder of a Saskatchewan farmer has been granted day parole by the Parole Board of Canada.
The hearing for Odelia Quewezance took place Thursday morning.
“I would like to say I agree with my parole officer,” said Odelia at the virtual hearing. “I also believe it is a good plan for day parole and gradual re-integration into society.
“I am OK without the recommendation that full parole is denied. I am ready for my next steps to freedom.”
Odelia, along with her sister Nerissa, was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 after being convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Joseph Dolff of Kamsack, Sask., just down the road from the Keeseekoose, a Saulteaux Nation where the women are from.
The Quewezance sisters have maintained their innocence throughout.
Their younger cousin, Jason Keshane told APTN Investigates he killed the 70-year-old Dolff.
Jason Keshane, who was 14 at the time of the crime, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to two years. He has served his time and has been released.
The hearing Thursday was the second one for Odelia’s parole. The first took place in January but was adjourned because of concerns over her well-being.
Today, Odelia said though she felt “overwhelmed” by the number of people at the hearing, she wanted to proceed.
“Instead of giving up, I didn’t give up. I considered all the factors. This time I have thought it out, I took the time out,” she said.
“Today I feel grounded. I feel like I don’t have that fear. I feel good about it today because I know how to talk.”
The board acknowledged that Odelia was different at this hearing.
“You’ve made progress, the board recognizes that,” they said.
But in its ruling Thursday, the parole board says it’s recommending day parole because it’s premature to consider day parole at this point.
With day parole, Odelia must follow several conditions including being back at the halfway house every evening.
That also includes not consuming any alcohol or drugs, not associating with known criminals, sticking with her treatment programs and having no contact with the victim’s family.
Another condition Corrections Services Canada had been seeking is that Odelia can’t speak publicly about her case.
Her lawyer and parole assistant James Lockyer objected to that saying she must be able to tell her story in order to advance her wrongful conviction review.
“Her quest is to prove her innocence through the justice minister,” he said. “She shouldn’t be muzzled.”
The parole board didn’t impose a media ban or grant another condition that she stay out of the area where Dolff’s family lives.
Waiting for results of judicial review
The granting of day parole comes as a ministerial pardon is in the works.
In February 2022, their lawyer James Lockyer, filed for a judicial review with federal Justice Minister David Lametti to consider the case against them.
He told APTN News in a February interview that “the only person on the planet Earth who can do anything about these convictions is the minister of justice in Ottawa,” says Lockyer of his application for a ministerial review. “There’s no one else who can do this.”
Lametti has the power to quash the convictions and order a new trial or he can ask the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to look at the women’s convictions a second time. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal originally dismissed its original appeal in 1995.
Lockyer told APTN in February that there is a lot for the minister to consider.
“They (RCMP) took advantage of the fact they were Indigenous, they took advantage of the fact they were young, and they took advantage of the fact they were women.”
For Lametti to take any action, his office must find “a reasonable basis to conclude Odelia and Nerissa are likely victims of a miscarriage of justice to quash the sisters’ convictions and order a new trial.”
At the hearing, Odelia said she was ready to be on the “outside.”
“I have a good plan from my parole officer,” she told the board. “I would like to give back to the community. I would like to volunteer and be an advocate.”
Odelia’s sister Nerissa was on day parole but is back in prison after violating her conditions.
With files from Kathleen Martens