Media organisations – including Amnesty International Canada – have launched an appeal to the Prime Minister, asking for him to appoint a commission of inquiry.
They say the last such commission in 1986 was a “complete failure”.
The reams of documents obtained under the Access to Information Act reveal that in the 1980s and 1990s, “miscarriages of justice were often based on faulty and negligent evidence” and “understaffed police investigations had severe holes”.
Amnesty says there is no reason the new system should be any different.
“In 1986, this commission of inquiry was so grossly inadequate that some experts later called it a complete failure, especially in terms of implementing recommendations to make Canada’s justice system more transparent and effective,” Amnesty Canada says in a statement.
“It recommended no structural changes, no changes to police policy, no changes to court procedure, no reform to the scientific and clinical evidence base and no law reform.
“In one case, evidence obtained from a crack-addicted drug dealer has resulted in a wrongful conviction that has now impacted 21 victims.
“When the commission was held, the jury at the end of the trial – to the fury of the defence – was not even permitted to see certain evidence or hear specific parts of the evidence.”
The news was announced on the anniversary of Canada’s Missing Women’s Inquiry.
“We hope the Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Safety listen to their position and advise the Prime Minister to appoint a new commission,” says Steven Floyd, president of Amnesty International Canada.
Before launching the appeal, Amnesty published the details of a new report on wrongful convictions, “The Missing Epilogue: A Conversation on Improving the Verdicts and Evidence Validation in Canada.”
The national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls began this week in Ottawa.