Note: In April 2015 AIDWYC wrote to Ms Linda Rothstein, Lead Counsel to the Independent Reviewer of the Motherisk Hair Analysis Independent Review. Read our submissions here.
Author: Pamela Stephenson Welch H.B.Sc, Osgoode Hall Law School Student
An innocent person was convicted of a heinous crime he did not commit. Science helped convict him.
– Justice Fred Kaufman (Retired Quebec Appeal Court Justice)
The words of Justice Fred Kaufman, written in the wake of Guy Paul Morin’s wrongful conviction and exoneration, ring true for the countless men and women who have been confined to prison on the basis of science. They too ring true for the men and women whose lives have been impacted by the unquestioned reliance on the science behind the Motherisk Program.
Motherisk is a program that has been run out of Sick Kids Hospital for many years. Outside of its research projects, the focus of Motherisk was to test hair for drug and alcohol. The results of those analyses have been used as evidence in child protection and criminal cases in at least five provinces and one territory, including Ontario.
What should have been a cause of concern is the fact that Motherisk is an accredited clinical lab and NOT a forensic lab. What this means, is that Motherisk was not subjected to vigorous requirements and oversight, an extra precaution that would have been able to detect the faulty science behind the program.
From at least 2005 to 2010, Motherisk have been using a screening technique called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in order to test hair for cocaine. This was done, even though the lab had stated that it had switched to a gold-standard technique for testing cocaine. The literature in the field of hair testing states [...]