Manitoba judge acquits 2 Indigenous men convicted of 1973 Winnipeg murder

Categories: Canada


Federal Justice Minister David Lametti had ordered a new trial for Brian Anderson and Allan Woodhouse

Posted: July 18, 2023
Last Updated: 7 Hours Ago

Allan Woodhouse, seated, and Brian Anderson, hands clasped in front of him, stand outside the Winnipeg Law Courts Building after a judge tossed out their murder convictions from 1974. (Sarah Petz/CBC)

A Winnipeg courtroom erupted in cheers and applause on Tuesday as a Manitoba judge officially acquitted two First Nations men who were convicted of killing a restaurant worker half a century ago.

Justice Glenn Joyal announced acquittals for Brian Anderson and Allan Woodhouse, who were sentenced to life in prison in the death of Ting Fong Chan, a restaurant worker who was fatally stabbed in 1973. 

“You are innocent, and you deserve acquittals I’m happy to enter,” Joyal said in court, adding that he commended the two men for their courage and resilience. 

“You are heroes in every sense of the word.”

So many people turned up for the two men’s court appearance on Tuesday that it had to be moved to a bigger room.

Outside the courthouse, both Anderson and Woodhouse said Joyal’s words were still sinking in, but that they felt an enormous sense of relief. 

“I feel free,” Woodhouse said. “It’s about time somebody believed me. 50 years is a long time.” 

Anderson said he’s still processing the acquittal. 

“Right now, I’m so excited I’m not even sure how good it is.”

Earlier Tuesday morning, the prosecutor said the Crown was seeking the acquittal of the two First Nations men.

Crown prosecutor Michelle Jules told the court Tuesday that she would not call any evidence.

She said Manitoba prosecutors acknowledge that Anderson’s and Woodhouse’s convictions were a miscarriage of justice and the Crown could not dispute their innocence. 

She said the Crown’s case at the time was based almost entirely on admissions the men made to police, which have since been proven to be false and in Anderson’s case “entirely manufactured.” 

Anderson has previously said that he signed a confession, not knowing what the document said. 

Systemic racism played heavily in both men’s convictions, Jules said. 

“Our justice system failed,” she told the court. “We owe them and their families an apology.”

Members of Chan’s family were also in court Tuesday and were supportive of the acquittals, Jules told the court. 

‘I lost my life’ 

Anderson was released on parole in 1987 and Woodhouse in 1990.

Both men appealed to higher courts shortly after their convictions but were denied.

The two men, now both in their late 60s, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing about how the convictions upended their lives. 

Woodhouse was just 17 when he was arrested. In total, he spent close to 23 years behind bars. 

Now in a wheelchair, he told the court that he shut himself off from his family once he was in prison, and felt like he was practically dead. 

“I lost my life.”

Later in life, Woodhouse went back to school and earned a degree in economics from the University of Manitoba. He also worked as an electrician, court heard.

Footage of a news story featuring a young Anderson was played in court before the two men spoke. 

Now 68, Anderson told the court seeing the footage brought up old wounds. 

“It should never have happened. I should never have had to spend time behind bars … for something I didn’t do.”

Anderson and Woodhouse submitted applications for criminal conviction review in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

In June, Federal Justice Minister David Lametti ordered a new trial for the two men, citing unspecified new evidence. 

Lametti said in a June 22 news release that he was satisfied there was a reasonable basis to conclude a miscarriage of justice likely occurred.

Lawyers Jerome Kennedy (left) and James Lockyer represented Brian Anderson and Allan Woodhouse during their fight to get their convictions quashed. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The two men were represented by lawyers James Lockyer and Jerome Kennedy of Innocence Canada. 

Kennedy said he became emotional after hearing the judge’s comments. 

“To hear the judge say you’re innocent and to apologize … that’s not something that a judge has to do,” he said following Tuesday’s hearing.

“So I think it all hit me at once.”


Sarah Petz is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. She was previously based at CBC New Brunswick. Her career has taken her across three provinces and includes a stint in East Africa. She can be reached at or @sarahrosepetz on Twitter.

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