News

Aboriginal jury representation 'crisis' in Ontario: Report

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci. (Reuters files)

Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci. (Reuters files)

TORONTO - 

Significant changes are recommended after a review of aboriginal representation on juries found a “crisis” in the Ontario justice system.

Independent Reviewer Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court justice, released his report, First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries, Tuesday which called on the Ontario government to take steps to increase the number of Aboriginal Peoples serving on juries.

“For Ontario’s First Nations peoples, particularly in the North, the justice system and juries process generally are in a crisis,” Iacobucci said in a statement.

A key recommendation in the report is cultural training for all government justice officials — including police, court workers, correctional officers and Crown attorneys — who have contact with First Nations peoples.

The Ontario government should study the feasibility of using its existing databases, such as OHIP, to add more aboriginals to the jury rolls, the report says.

Attorney General John Gerretsen said he will create an implementation committee, which includes members of First Nations communities, to review all the recommendations.

His ministry will also establish an advisory committee to provide him with guidance on this issue, Gerretsen said.

“We want to make sure that juries in the future — particularly in northern Ontario, but throughout Ontario — have on their rolls aboriginal representation,” he said. “We want to make sure that juries are truly representative of the communities where they are struck.”

The Ontario government launched the review in August 2011 after complaints surfaced that aboriginals were rarely represented on juries.

Iacobucci concluded that many First Nations individuals are reluctant to participate in the jury system because of the conflict between their cultural values and laws and those of the Canadian justice system, systemic discrimination within the system and a desire for self-government.


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions


Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »