We’re grateful the cases have been moved forward, but there’s more we can do

Alberta’s government is pushing hard to overturn the convictions of 96 innocent people who were convicted of murders but actually had nothing to do with the crime.

The government has given legal expert Wally Oppal a deadline of Nov. 21 to recommend whether there should be a judicial inquiry into how individuals convicted of murders in the province were treated — including how they received compensation for doing time.

Quebec’s government is planning to do the same after its independent commission was also whitewashed after concluding that 104 accused murderers in the province who were wrongfully convicted shouldn’t receive the equivalent of a year’s salary for being incarcerated, the largest such compensation program in the world.

The cases in Alberta and Quebec are particularly egregious given the good work done by police in other parts of the country, and some of the cases in Alberta in particular could have been prevented entirely had the common sense factor been a consideration during the conviction process.

The Alberta wrongful conviction review panel is headed by an eminent lawyer named Susan Jackman, who also sat on the commission reviewing the Saint-Lambert serial murders, and she’s had the chance to meet with the families of the victims.

We’ve written extensively about such injustice. We discussed the errors committed by the Toronto Police involving the late Adnan Syed, a man who has spent 15 years in prison for the murder of his former girlfriend, Hina Butt, but whose lawyers say he didn’t do it. And in our last story we asked the government of Ontario to take steps to exonerate the Albertans and the Quebecers who are seeking compensation for wrongful conviction. They’ve failed to do so.

The whole process of determining an innocence is a painful one. And it’s important for the human capacity to demonstrate its worth in the face of such high stakes. We want to continue to be part of helping to prevent injustice in ways that are also compassionate and ethical. We’re grateful that there is progress being made. But the more we see of these examples, the more disappointed we become that we weren’t somehow able to make a difference in one of these cases sooner.

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