Review aged justice tool
With the recent outcome of a high-profile case in Saskatchewan, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has said changes to how juries are selected could be forthcoming.
The sticking point is peremptory challenges, a tool allowing lawyers to object to a proposed juror without needing to give a reason. Both sides use the tool to create the best possible jury for their case. The United States also uses this system, while the United Kingdom does not.
Peremptory challenges have been in use in Canada since the 1890s, but in the last few decades, many are raising issues with them.
A 1991 report from the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba said the practices should “no longer be allowed” and former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Frank Iacobucci raised concerns in a 2013 report.
The latest trial has brought the issues to the top of the Liberal government’s pile. They need to navigate the matter carefully to maintain a detached way to reform the current justice system.
We have always maintained a system of “innocent until proven guilty” and the tools in place to achieve that should be protected. However, practices that are being used to discriminate should be open to reform.
Lawyers should still be able to make objections to jurors, except now with given reasons.
Rather than a cursory once-over, it would allow lawyers to see if bias exists, which is a valid reason to dismiss a juror.
Complete overhaul needed
The federal government is looking at reviewing the jury selection process in light of a recent Saskatchewan case where a farmer was acquitted after shooting and killing a Cree man in 2016.
Media reports say the government wants to allow more Indigenous representation on Canadian juries.
While I support equal representation, I think the government needs to exercise caution.
It’s understandable that politicians want to move swiftly to address the outcry from the Indigenous community, but making changes to the judicial system is not something that should be rushed.
The court system has been under question for years. Just this January the Toronto Star published an article identifying shortcomings in the justice system.
Take mandatory minimum sentences. By giving defendants no alternative, the judicial system is increasingly being bogged down with full trials that may have been resolved with a plea bargain.
Try sitting through a day in court. The system is extremely difficult to navigate, save for those with a law degree.
Canadians deserve to understand the justice system.
Last weeks’s ruling has shed light on a system that needs an overhaul.
Instead of focusing just on jury selection, the government should take its time and complete an overhaul of the entire system to ensure all Canadians get a fair shake.