Federal Justice Minister David Lametti says it’s up to the province to initiate a public inquiry into the case of a Halifax man wrongfully convicted of murdering his former girlfriend.
Glen Assoun was convicted in 1999 of the knifing murder of Brenda Way four years earlier. The 63-year-old man spent almost 17 years in prison and more than four years on bail before his exoneration earlier this year.
“Let me point out that I feel a great deal of, again, sympathy for Glen Assoun and his family and friends, and also for the victim in this case, for a crime that still stands unresolved,” said Lametti in Halifax on Friday.
“So my heart goes out to her family as well.”
It’s the provincial government, however, that has the necessary jurisdiction to probe the miscarriage of justice, Lametti explained, and the federal government will co-operate in any inquiry the province decides to have.
“This is primarily, we feel, primarily a provincial matter, but we’re willing to be there in a supportive role,” he told reporters.
Lametti also declined to apologize for the 18 months Assoun’s case spent on the desk of his predecessor in Ottawa without any action. The documents contained findings from the federal Criminal Conviction Review Group’s review, which recommended a new trial be ordered for Assoun.
Lametti ordered a new trial for Assoun on Feb. 28 this year, less than two months after taking office. That trial took place on Feb. 29, and Assoun walked away a free man.
“Well I’ve certainly acted expeditiously from the moment I became minister to make sure that this case was dealt with,” said the minister.
“There are a lot of moving parts in this narrative and so I’d rather not comment right now on that (an apology), thank you.”
Asked if there were other wrongful conviction cases on his desk in Ottawa, Lametti replied: “Again, I’d rather not comment on that.”
WATCH: Report on wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun gets released
Nova Scotia’s justice minister Mark Furey has also declined to apologize for Assoun’s wrongful conviction as he takes time to catch up on the file. He was cleared to speak about the case earlier this week, when the province’s conflict of interest commissioner ruled that Furey’s work as an RCMP officer did not constitute a conflict.
Two weeks ago, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice unsealed and released the Criminal Conviction Review Group’s report of Assoun’s case, which revealed that the RCMP had destroyed evidence that could have resulted in a new trial for Assoun.
The federal NDP and Green party leaders have since called on Ottawa to order an independent review of the case to determine how the wrongful conviction occurred. They’ve also said an independent probe is needed to determine why the RCMP destroyed potential evidence prepared by an analyst in an RCMP unit looking at the behaviour of serial offenders.
– with files from The Canadian Press