Visitors at Humber’s L Space Gallery “flipped their wigs” to shed light on the wrongly accused in Canada.
The interactive exhibit featured colorful wigs and photographs of convicted felons, who proclaimed their innocence to police but spent more than a decade in prison.
Win Wahrer from the Association of Defense of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) collaborated with students from Lakeshore campus’s Doug Thomson’s Criminal Justice class.
Thomson’s student, Samantha Jennings, said the wigs brought an element of fun to the exhibition of a serious issue, which turns the spotlight on Canada’s legal system.
Another student, Ryan Andre, attended the exhibit but didn’t try on the wigs.
“I grew up surrounded by poverty, and having family members being affected by domestic violence,” said Andre, whose uncle was arrested for domestic violence. “It was hard because I have cousins who were younger than me, so I had to step up and be like a father figure for them.”.
Wahrer said most Canadians do not always have access to the legal system.
“I find being part of a minority group, they are also the most vulnerable,” said Mukhtar Dost, a Legal Studies expert from the University of Ontario’s Institution of Technology (UOIT). “Marginalized women, children, aboriginal’s are disproportionately represented in prison.”
Dost said Canada has a good justice system compared to other countries. He also said that access to justice in Canada should not be governed by race, class or gender identity.
Wahrer said the non-profit organization AIDWYC was formed after Guy Paul Morin’s wrongful conviction for the murder of 9 year-old Christine Jessop.
Wahrer brought in Romeo Phillion, who spent 31 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, to represent AIDWYC’s work at the exhibition.
He received a jail sentence when false evidence was brought against him.
Phillion spoke to Thomson’s students about access to justice in Canada. His lawyer advised him against speaking to reporters.
Wahrer said defending innocent people is something she feels passionate about, as she grew up in Nova Scotia’s foster system and always felt like an outcast.
“All my life, I’ve always cared about people, especially people who are cast-off, throwaways,” she said. “If I can do anything to stop the suffering, I would as that’s what I would want someone else to do for me.”
The exhibit will continue at Humber Lakeshore until March 12.