Friday, October 21, 2016

Innocence Canada; A very black day: Toronto Star reports that Innocence Canada formerly known as AIDWYC (The Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted) - an organization responsible for 21 exonerations including seven victims of of the notorious former pathologist Charles Smith - the namesake of this Blog - is facing a substantial shortfall and therefore will soon stop taking on new cases. With a shrinking staff and decreased capacity, it will already take years to work through their 85-case backlog — cases the organization has determined, following a screening process, are possible wrongful convictions. In 16 of those cases, Innocence Canada is convinced the person is innocent, including three convictions involving Ontario pathologist Smith. “This should be a concern to all Canadians,” said Daniel Brown, a Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, who has worked on cases brought forward by Innocence Canada. “It’s a dangerous idea to think that there is nobody ensuring that the justice system got these convictions right.” Established in 1993, Innocence Canada has helped secure 21 of the 26 exonerations in Canada’s history, freeing wrongly convicted individuals who together spent more than 190 years in prison for crimes they did not commit."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I was utterly shocked to learn this evening that  Innocence Canada  (formerly known as The Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted 'AIDWYC'  is in dire financial straits and will soon stop taking on new cases This news - that Innocence Canada is becoming a 'shadow of it formal self -  could lead to wrongly convicted Canadians without recourse - except for innocence programs in law schools (helpful but no substitute for Innocence Canada's immense experience and expertise) - and the Department of Justice's  review process,  which lacks independence. As Wendy Gillis's article points out 'The majority of Innocence Canada’s legal work is done by lawyers for free...the organization estimates that, annually, lawyers across the country donate $3.5 million in pro-bono work." Some of Innocence Canada's cases have become household names - such as David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin and, above all, Steven Truscott. Then there were all the Smith cases.  AIDWYC vindicated  - and is still vindicating all these years later - innocent parents, relatives and caregivers who had been turned into the worst sort of pariahs in their communities. Some of these innocent people had their other children seized and put up for adoption. Some had to plead guilty to horrible lesser offences they did not commit to avoid almost certain conviction at the hands of the revered former Doctor Charles Randal Smith. It is almost beyond contemplation that in the future, people in Canada who have been wrongfully convicted will not be able to look to  AIDWYC  for the difficult, time-consuming, labour-intensive task of conducting investigations and bringing a case to court many years after the fact, and winning against all of the resources of Canada's prosecution establishment. What terrible news. It's a truly black day for justice in Canada - and for  those that will need AIDWYC's services in the future.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog

STORY:  "Innocence Canada becoming ‘shadow of its former self," by reporter Wendy Gillis, ished by The Toronto Star on October 21, 2016.

SUB-HEADING: "Funding woes mean organization responsible for 21 exonerations will no longer take on new cases."
GIST: "Facing a substantial financial shortfall, the non-profit organization instrumental in exonerating 21 wrongly convicted Canadians — including David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin, Steven Truscott and seven victims of disgraced pathologist Dr. Charles Smith — will soon become a “shadow of its former self.” Innocence Canada, formerly known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, has issued lay-off notices to members of its small staff, been priced out of its downtown Toronto office and, most troubling to many in the justice community, will soon stop taking on new cases. “At this point forward, if you’re wrongly convicted in Canada, there is nowhere to go,” said Debbie Oakley, Innocence Canada’s executive director. In a lengthy interview with the Star this week, Oakley and Innocence Canada’s co-president Ron Dalton — who was exonerated after being wrongly convicted of murdering his wife — said the decision to stop considering new cases was not made lightly, but the association has no choice. “The demand is much larger than anything we can even think about doing,” said Dalton. With a shrinking staff and decreased capacity, it will already take years to work through their 85-case backlog — cases the organization has determined, following a screening process, are possible wrongful convictions. In 16 of those cases, Innocence Canada is convinced the person is innocent, including three convictions involving Ontario pathologist Smith. “This should be a concern to all Canadians,” said Daniel Brown, a Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, who has worked on cases brought forward by Innocence Canada. “It’s a dangerous idea to think that there is nobody ensuring that the justice system got these convictions right.” Established in 1993, Innocence Canada has helped secure 21 of the 26 exonerations in Canada’s history, freeing wrongly convicted individuals who together spent more than 190 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. The organization has for many years been “hand to mouth,” Dalton said, funded in part by annual donations from the Law Foundation of Ontario and Legal Aid Ontario. Eight years ago, they received a $1-million donation from Ian Cartwright, a retired Ontario Superior Court judge, which Innocence Canada parsed out into annual increments. Within the last few years, with no new potential source of funds in sight, Innocence Canada acquired charitable status and began appealing to foundations and provincial agencies, but still wasn’t able to pull in sufficient funds. Facing a shortfall of about $250,000, Oakley and Dalton said the organization took heart in the changeover in Ottawa; the end of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s “tough on crime” reign could mean a greater commitment from the federal government. Earlier this year, Innocence Canada board members travelled to Ottawa to meet with Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. But last month, they were told they would receive no funding. Board members knew they had to make changes that would make Innocence Canada “a shadow of its former self,” Oakley said. “We’ve gone everywhere, and this was kind of our last hope for what we would say was an organization with deep enough pockets that they could help us.”.........Asked what recourse wrongly convicted Canadians now have, Gervais referred the Star to the federal government’s Criminal Convictions Review Group. But Oakley and Dalton say the federal organization is, like their own, under-resourced, and does not have the years of acquired expertise that Innocence Canada offers. They worry about an insurmountable backlog..........But the association does the work of accepting potential cases and sifting through applications to determine possible wrongful convictions. Their staff then manages each case throughout years of work, and provides support to wrongly convicted individuals and their families, before and after exoneration. Brown said Innocence Canada’s staff brings to the table vital skills. Most lawyers, even those with significant trial and appeal court experience, do not possess comparable expertise necessary to investigate possible cases of wrongful conviction. “Innocence Canada is the bridge between those in custody and the lawyers who are volunteering their time,” he said. “We need an organization that can help guide those lawyers in the right direction.”.........What Canada really needs, Oakley and Dalton say, is an independent, publicly funded wrongful conviction review commission, similar to bodies that already exist in the United Kingdom and Australia. Such a commission would eliminate the need for Innocence Canada, something the organization would support. Until then, “we are still going to carry on and do the best we can,” Dalton said.

The entire story can be found at:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/10/21/innocence-canada-becoming-shadow-of-its-former-self.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:  http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html  Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.