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Federal justice minister orders new trial for two men convicted of murder in 1974

OTTAWA — Justice Minister David Lametti is ordering a new trial for two Indigenous men who were convicted of murder by an all-white jury nearly 50 years ago. 

Brian Anderson and Allan Woodhouse were sentenced to life in prison for killing Ting Fong Chan, who was working at a Winnipeg restaurant when he was stabbed in 1973. 

Their appeals to higher courts were denied and both men had submitted applications for a criminal conviction review by the federal justice minister in recent years. 

Lametti can grant new trials if he is satisfied a miscarriage of justice likely occurred.

Innocence Canada, an organization that supported the convictions being quashed, said in a statement the two Indigenous men were the victims of systemic racism.

James Lockyer, a director with Innocence Canada who helped on the case, said in the statement that the organization is looking forward to discussing how provincial and federal governments can right the wrongs done by the criminal justice system to Indigenous Peoples.

“Their cases raise important systemic issues that need to be addressed in Manitoba and across Canada.”

Anderson was released on parole in 1987 and Woodhouse in 1990. No dates have been set for when the two could appear in a Manitoba court next. 

Lametti introduced a law in February that would make changes to how people who may be wrongfully convicted can have their cases reviewed.

The bill reached second reading in the House of Commons before MPs rose for the summer. 

If the bill ultimately passes, advocates say it would make reviews happen faster by establishing an independent commission to decide when criminal cases should be sent back to the justice system.

Right now, a wrongful conviction review takes between two and six years to complete and the decision is up to the justice minister.

Anderson had submitted his application for criminal conviction review in 2019 and Woodhouse in 2020.

The proposed new system would aim to speed the process up by allowing more people to be dedicated to reviewing files.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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