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April 15, 2021

$13.1M wrongful conviction payout should slight past victims

If we strip away Canada’s debate coverage, the biggest news story to end this week may be that of Rejean Hinse, the Quebec man who spent five years in a federal penitentiary for a crime he didn’t commit.

Istockphoto_10354953-hands-of-a-prisoner-on-prison-bars Hinse, now 73, was wrongfully imprisoned in 1961 for his alleged role in an armed robbery, and his fifty-year fight to clear his name may have finally come to a close.

As announced this week, the retired pipefitter will receive a staggering $13.1 million in compensation ($4.5 million from the Quebec government; $8.6 million from the feds) for his trials and tribulations. The amount is “unprecedented,” according to The Star.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to question Hinse. Let’s get that right out in the open. His story is tragic, and he deserves any and everything our government is willing to pay for his nightmares.

But there’s sure to be a good faction of Canadians – as there was during another high-profile wrongful conviction payout case – upset about that $13.1 million figure. It’s unfortunate. It’s true.

Hinse’s case is pretty straightforward, if lengthy: in 1961, a general store owner and his wife were assaulted and robbed by five crooks, who made off with about $4,000. Hinse was incorrectly charged and jailed in the case, which landed him behind bars for much of the next three years before he was sentenced to 15 years in a federal penitentiary in 1964. He spent the next five years there – a place he likened to “hell on earth,” The Star says – until his parole in 1969. It wasn’t until 1997 that his name was fully cleared by the Supreme Court of Canada, and on Thursday it was announced he would receive $13.1 million for his five-decade saga.

If anything, Hinse’s payout isn’t unjust itself, it merely highlights how poorly other wrongfully convicted Canadians have been compensated in the past.

Saskatchewan’s David Milgaard and Ontario’s Steven Truscott both spent time in prison for supposedly raping and killing women, allegations that carry a stain much deeper than armed robbery. Milgaard, who spent 27 years in prison, received $10 million in 1999, and Truscott, who spent 10 years in prison, received $6.5 million in 2006.

So it goes, then, that this may be the angle to the Hinse compensation story no one’s discussing. If Hinse is just in receiving $13.1 million for his pain, then how does spending ten years in prison, having your friends and family think you raped and killed a 12-year-old girl, and having to live thirty of your adult years under an assumed name and anonymity – as Truscott has faced since his conviction, which originally sentenced him to hang – not deserve more?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money

*Follow Jason on Twitter here.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...