(shown with author
In 2005, Yvonne Johnson applied for judicial review under the "faint hope clause" and won the right to ask for parole sooner and has been eligible for full parole since October 2005.
She has been living in a halfway house since being granted day parole in January 2008.
Johnson was denied full parole following a hearing in Calgary in 2009, but was given additional overnight privileges.
She has been eligible for full parole since October 2005.
Letter from Alan Wolfe:
Another person who has been
convicted of murder and is presently serving a 25 year jail term
without parole is Yvonne Johnson. Her parole will not be eligible
In the book Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman,
co-written with the acclaimed author, Rudy Wiebe, her tragic
life has been fully revealed. Under the influence of alcohol,
a fight broke out between several people in her home at Wetaskiwin,
AB. A man that her cousin accused of being a child molester,
ended up dead. Johnson was very protective of her young children
and was originally trying to protect their welfare.
Because of the sad childhood
she grew up in and the wild stories that the cousin was spreading
about what the victim, Leonard "Chuck" Skwarok ("a friend of a friend")
was allegedly doing to children, things unfortunately grew a
little rough after he had been invited over to be confronted
with the accusations.
However, at the time of the trial, the court transcripts show that the prosecutor's own chief
medical witness proved that had Johnson committed the act that
she was alleged to have done, death could not have happened.
The only role Johnson had in that fight was the placing of a
phone cord around the victim's neck for a few seconds, then released.
The crown's own medical witness
testified that death was not caused by this action alone. Besides
Johnson's cousin, Shirley Anne Salmon being present, was her
husband, Dwayne Wenger, and an acqaintance Ernie Jensen.
Accusations are "that
Wetaskiwin, with its deep and longstanding rifts between natives
and nonnatives, is one jurisdiction where native people routinely
receive tougher sentences than nonnatives." It seems quite
clear that racism in this case played a major role in the outcome
of the sentencing. The others, whites (with exception of the
cousin), in this case received sentences of 10 - 11 years. There
is no evidence to show that Johnson was guilty of anything beyond
simple assault. Her trial took place in Wetaskiwin.
This, too, is one of the big
travesties of injustice in Canada. Unfortunately because she
is part native the book was thrown at her and no one in a responsible
position wants it aired in the same way that no one wanted light
to be shown on the other wrongly accused people.
Besides the book Stolen Life,
an account of Yvonne Johnson's life was carried in the September, 1999
edition of Chatelaine.
The last that I had heard from
Yvonne Johnson, she could be reached at Box 9243, Saskatoon,
SK S7K 3X5. I understand that is the warden's address of the
institution that she is currently in.
I don't know what assistance
that you have to offer in this case but thought you should at
least be aware of the case.
From Elizabeth Fry site:
Another example of the significant,
albeit hidden role that prosecutorial discretion plays in murder
cases is provided by Yvonne Johnson's case. The result in her
prosecution demonstrates the flip side of systemic racism whereby
accused who are not the most significant actors in a crime can
be accorded the lion's share of legal and punitive responsibility
for a crime.
Yvonne Johnson's account in Stolen Life (Johnson
and Wiebe, 1998) illustrates how the Aboriginal woman accused
of murder can be denied the benefit of Crown discretion in the
prosecution in terms of plea bargaining, even where it is extended
to the other perpetrators. She ended up as the only one of four
to be convicted of first degree murder and therefore the one
who is serving the longest sentence of imprisonment, by far.
A recently received letter from Yvonne Johnson, the co-author (with Rudy Wiebe) of Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman
Yvonne Johnson has been transferred
against her will from the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge to the Edmonton
Institute for Women. She is now the Chairperson of the Lifers'
Group at the Edmonton Institute for Women, and is trying make
the group independent and operative.
"One event I would like
to host is they have tours of young girls who are at high risk
to be in conflict with the law. We had spoken to these young
girls but it was short and sweet. I feel they still sort of fear
us, that they do not see the real truth of things and the impact
of things. I had suggested we set up a whole day of speaking
and personal interaction with these kids. A sort of scared straight
program but in a calm cool and collective way instead. It takes
funds to place up events as this so this is where I would ask
if you could somehow help the group help our selves and in turn
"I wanted to put up another
event as well, we have abused women's shelters here in Edmonton.
As a women's lifer's group we wish to interact with these women
and children as well. As most women are in on lifer for murdering
abusive spouses, or men who abuse the women for most of their
lives. If we can reach these women and children as they are at
the shelters then we may prevent incidents of murder from occuring
in the future. Somehow empower these women so they can break
out of the cycle of abuse. So I do have a lot of ideas but need
funds to try and achieve this and create a balance in the group
so we can get our own stuff together and try to interact in a
supportive manor with the public. At these events we as well
be giving them support, gifts we make and funds to help support
the abused women's shelters. If you wish you can make any contributions
directly to the lifers group Edmonton Institute for Women."
The address is:
Edmonton Institution for Women
11151 - 178 Street