The Brian Anderson Case: A Commentary on Racism and Wrongful Convictions in Manitoba’s Criminal Justice System

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Over the weekend, I decided to take a break from the sometimes all-consuming nature of being a law student. So, I decided to turn on the television and watch a CTV special on Canada’s criminal justice system. To my surprise, the W5 Investigation which I watched brought to light the lesser known Manitoba case of Brian Anderson, an Indigenous man who alleges that he was wrongfully arrested and convicted of murder in 1973.

Back in 1978, Anderson was an 18 year old man who allegedly murdered 40 year old Ting Fong Chan, alongside several other men in Winnipeg. During Anderson’s arrest and trial, he insisted his innocence, yet no justice officials listened to him and tunnel visioned in on him. Despite having a credible alibi for the night of the murder, Anderson’s defence never called the alibi to the stand. In addition, during Anderson’s trial, there was virtually no evidence linking Anderson to the crime, yet he was still found guilty of the murder beyond a reasonable doubt- something which I find extremely alarming.

After spending a decade in prison, throughout which Anderson maintained his innocence, he was granted parole. While parole granted Anderson leave of prison, he is still subject to considerable stipulations. Even today, 46 years after Anderson’s alleged involvement in the murder, the terms of his parole still prevent him from going beyond the outskirts of Winnipeg without express permission.

What is clear to me from Anderson’s case (alongside so many others) is that the criminal justice system has inherent biases which occasionally makes innocent Canadians, their rights and their freedoms its own victims. In my opinion, it is beyond belief that Anderson was convicted of a crime in violation of his legal rights guaranteed under sections 7 to 14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and his equality rights guaranteed under section 15 of the Charter. Not only are Anderson’s legal and equality rights infringed upon, but I also feel that his section 6 mobility rights have been violated because (assuming he is an innocent man) he is not free to travel Canada as he pleases, and is instead confined to Winnipeg and its outlying areas. 

Fortunately for Anderson, Innocence Canada has recently taken on his case. Currently, Anderson and Innocence Canada are on a joint crusade to clear his name, something which may take many years in today’s justice system. Nonetheless, what is most worrisome is that Anderson may be yet another victim of systemic discrimination of Manitoba’s criminal justice system whose life has been taken hostage by the underlying racism and bias of the system. What must be recognized is that if Anderson is found innocent, not only has he wrongfully spent over a decade in prison, the course of his entire life has been altered beyond recognition and no amount of restitution will be able to compensate him for his irreparable suffering and loss of freedom.


Sources:

[1] CTV News, “A convicted Manitoba murderer’s 45-year fight to clear his name” (30 Jan 2019), online: CTV News <ctvnews.ca> [perma.cc/P44E-6YKK ]. 

[2] Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act,1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.