Logo, with tally marks equal to the number of exonerations secured
|Purpose||Advocate, Educator and Network|
|$500,000 to $600,000 annually|
|Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC)|
Innocence Canada, formerly known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC), is a Canadian, non-profit legal organization. Based in Toronto, Innocence Canada identifies, advocates for, and helps exonerate individuals who have been convicted of a serious crime which they did not commit and to preventing future wrongful convictions through education and justice system reform.
Founded in 1993 out of the volunteer network that helped exonerate Guy Paul Morin, Innocence Canada has been involved in twenty-one of twenty-six exonerations in Canadian history, including other high-profile cases such as those involving David Milgaard, Steven Truscott, Roméo Phillion, and several victims of disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.
Innocence Canada was founded in February 1993 as the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) by a group of volunteers who organized the Justice for Guy Paul Morin Committee after Morin's 1992 wrongful conviction. Founded the same month that Morin was released on bail pending appeal, the AIDWYC decided to broaden its mandate.
In 2009, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted received a one million dollar donation from Ian Cartwright, a retired judge from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. It also set up the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted Foundation, a registered charity, in July 2010. The grant led to AIDWYC establishing a legal education program on wrongful convictions for groups such as police, law school students, and prisoners.
By Fall 2016, the funding from the Cartwright grant began to dry up. In September 2016, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted was denied $250,000 a year funding from the federal government. In the same month, it announced that due to lack of funds, it would have to stop taking on new cases, lay off staff, and move out of its downtown Toronto office. At the time, it had a backlog of 85 cases, 16 of which were deemed likely wrongful convictions by Innocence Canada's staff, including three convicted using expert testimony of disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.
In October 2016, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted rebranded as Innocence Canada, and adopted a new logo consisting of 21 tally marks, one for each of the exonerations they were involved in.
In December 2016, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced that the Ontario government would provide $825,000 in funding over three years, while the Law Society of Ontario would add another $75,000 over the same time period. Despite this funding, Innocence Canada still projected a $150,000 per year shortfall which it hoped to make up through charitable donations. Other funding includes a decade of $230,000 annual donations from the Law Foundation of Ontario, which pledged to continue this funding and add funds for future legal education programs by Innocence Canada.
Cases that Innocence Canada has been involved in include those of David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin, Steven Truscott, seven victims of the disgraced pediatric forensic pathologist Charles Smith, Roméo Phillion, and Thomas Sophonow. It also worked on the case of Anthony Hanemaayer, who had been convicted for a crime actually committed by serial rapist and killer Paul Bernardo, whose confession had not been passed on to Hanemaayer. It has been involved in twenty-one of twenty-six exonerations in Canadian history.
Applications to Innocence Canada can be made by the convicted person or another interested party and/or through the recommendation of a lawyer. In addition, Innocence Canada has been invited to provide expertise to several public inquiries related to cases or causes of wrongful convictions in Canada. Finally, Innocence Canada offers accredited Continuing Professional Development (CPD) educational seminars for Canadian lawyers in an effort to prevent future wrongful convictions. Innocence Canada is also working to increase the number of educational opportunities for the public, members of police services and the judiciary on issues related to the prevention of wrongful convictions.
Innocence Canada is a member of the Innocence Network, a collective of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals who have been wrongly convicted and to preventing wrongful convictions. The Network is composed of innocence organizations across the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Ireland.
Innocence Canada estimates that it receives 3.5 million dollars worth of pro bono legal work from Canadian lawyers each year. It has an annual budget of $500,000 to $600,000, much of which is used to pay for expert witnesses and lab tests. Each case roughly takes eight to nine years to see to completion.
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