HALIFAX — Glen Assoun has reached a compensation deal with the Nova Scotia and federal governments for his wrongful conviction and almost 17 years in prison.
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Randy Delorey said Thursday the recently signed deal is confidential, and Assoun's lawyers Sean MacDonald and Phil Campbell said the amount of the settlement and its details are not being released.
In an interview with The Canadian Press last October, Assoun said he feared he might die before reaching a final settlement with Ottawa and the province. Reached by telephone on Thursday at his home, Assoun said he felt relief that his financial future is now secure.
"They (the governments) did the right thing, and I'm grateful for that," Assoun said. "It feels good that I can leave my family something and I'm not worrying any longer about how I'll make ends meet."
Assoun's lawyers praised the two levels of government for the money to be provided and the signal it sends in acknowledging their client's mistreatment by the justice system. "It's gratifying to see and I hope it serves as an example for similar cases in the future," Campbell said in an interview Thursday.
Assoun lived under strict parole conditions for nearly five years after he was released from prison, before a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling in March 2019 reversed his 1999 conviction for the murder of Brenda Way in Halifax. The 1995 killing has never been solved.
The 64-year-old Halifax man suffered mental illness in prison, and he said he was diagnosed with a heart condition that required the insertion of stents — small mesh tubes that are placed in a narrowed coronary artery. He has also said he suffered severe beatings while in prison.
Assoun has been living off funds provided by the province and Ottawa in a preliminary agreement, which was also confidential. He said he is still seeking justice in his case, particularly in regard to police actions.
In 2019, it was revealed that a joint RCMP-Halifax Regional Police unit had destroyed evidence regarding alternative suspects to Assoun, prior to his unsuccessful appeal in 2006.
Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team, a police oversight agency, has said it is investigating whether there was criminal wrongdoing, and it has brought in outside investigators to assist.
"There's a potential criminal investigation underway that has to be completed before any broader issues can be addressed in this case," Campbell said.
Assoun's compensation deal is one of several that have emerged in recent decades as a result of cases pursued by lawyers with Innocence Canada, formerly known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted.
David Milgaard, who was wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of nursing assistant Gail Miller in Saskatoon and spent 23 years in prison, received $10 million in compensation.
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in 2007 that Steven Truscott's conviction for the rape and killing of a 12-year-old girl was a "miscarriage of justice." Less than a year later, a retired judge recommended Truscott receive $6.5 million in compensation, plus legal costs, from the Ontario government.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press