After decades of silence, Canada's one-time most dangerous woman slams justice system

August 10, 2018

Lisa Neve was once labelled the most dangerous woman in Canada.

Today she's speaking out about a justice system that nearly sent her away for life, a system with a rising number of Indigenous women behind bars, a system facing a mental-health crisis with more dangerous offenders than at any time in history.

Neve was just the second woman in the country to be declared a dangerous offender in 1994, a designation intended to be reserved for the most violent criminals and sexual offenders. At 21, she expected to spend the rest of her life in prison on an indefinite sentence.

This week, she spoke to journalists for the first time since 1999, the year her designation was overturned and she walked away from the criminal justice system.

"I'm not Canada's most dangerous woman," she said, clutching the hand of her partner, Michael Marcovitch, a criminal defence lawyer in Stony Plain. "I'm Lisa Neve. I'm a sister, a partner, a friend."

Neve testified in Edmonton Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Human Rights, which is studying human rights in Canadian prisons.

"I want people to know that you can't take away someone's whole life and tell them that they're unredeemable at 21 years old," she said.

Born in Saskatchewan on Boxing Day in 1972 to a Mé​tis mother, Neve was three months old when she was adopted by Jim and Colleen Neve.

Her early childhood was unremarkable, blending into the suburban landscape of Calgary in the late 1970s.

At age 12, Neve was caught drinking at school with four friends. When the police came, she refused to go home for fear of getting grounded, so they put her in handcuffs and took her to a children services centre, where she said she was forcibly strip searched.  

Frustrated when other girls at the centre bullied her, Neve said she hit the most hostile girl over the head with a metal bowl and wound up in a court-ordered mental health treatment program.

"Nobody wanted to help me. They just wanted to control me," she said.

Read more: After decades of silence, Canada's one-time most dangerous woman slams justice system