New Initiative to Honour Truscott

October 21, 2009 - News Release

The University of Guelph is launching a special justice studies initiative to commemorate and honour the struggles of Guelph resident Steven Truscott and his family.

Truscott is known across Canada for his decades-long battle to prove his innocence after the 1959 murder of his schoolmate Lynne Harper. He was wrongly convicted of the crime at age 14 and spent years in prison before his release in 1969. He was acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2007.

“The Truscott case is symbolic of the failings of the criminal justice system,” said Prof. Alun Joseph, dean of the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, which houses U of G’s criminal justice and public policy degree program. “The Truscott Initiative is symbolic of this college’s commitment to programming and research that engage with fundamental questions in the field of justice studies.”

The Truscott Initiative will be an ongoing fundraising effort to support public lectures, scholarships and, ultimately, a new Knowledge Exchange Chair that will be held by a succession of experts.

Chair holders may include academics, legal practitioners, judges, forensic scientists or community activists who will spend four to six months at the University. The chair holder will lead a research project on a current or emerging issue in justice studies.

“The goal is for their research to result in policy options that will improve the operation of the legal system and ensure that those who come in contact with it experience a system of justice,” said Prof. Byron Sheldrick, chair of the Department of Political Science.

The chair holder will also collaborate with faculty and students, give seminars and workshops, and provide guidance to graduate students.

“For students enrolled in the justice studies program, the opportunity to learn from someone with real-life experience in the field adds a dimension to their education that cannot be found in a textbook,” he said.

Sheldrick added that the chair position will also enrich conversations among researchers and create new ways of transferring knowledge across institutions.

“This will transform the learning experience for thousands of students,” said Ryan Truscott, Steven Truscott’s son. “It will also ensure that Guelph’s research initiatives in law, justice and public policy make the greatest possible contribution to community well-being by focusing on our criminal justice system — where it succeeds and where it fails — so that new ideas can lead to new improvements.”

Fundraising efforts for the Truscott Initiative will be continual. The initiative will be formally launched Nov. 6 with a public panel discussion on the ramifications of wrongful convictions. It will feature Steven and Marlene Truscott and their family; Irwin Cotler, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada; Hersh Wolch, a member of the Truscott legal team; and Mac Steinberg, a former prison chaplain. The panel discussion will be moderated by David Akin, a U of G graduate and national affairs correspondent for Canwest News

]The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Rozanski Hall. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Tickets and more information are available online.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338 or, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982 or

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