APTN National News
A long-awaited report expected to tackle First Nations representation on juries was released Tuesday and aims to do just that.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Frank lacobucci’s report found systemic and procedural issues preventing First Nations from sitting on juries.
In fact, laccobucci called it a “state of crisis”.
“For Ontario’s First Nations peoples, particularly in the north, the justice system and juries process generally are in a crisis,” said lacobucci in a press release. “As a result of our face-to-face meetings with leaders and community members from 32 First Nations from across Ontario, we developed 17 recommendations that will help ensure that the cultural values, laws, and ideologies of First Nations’ are better reflected in the Canadian justice system.”
The Ontario government handpicked lacobucci in August 2011 to determine why there seemed to be a lack of First Nation jurors.
That came after Jacy Pierre, 27, died at the Thunder Bay jail five years ago. The inquest into his death, which is common when prisoners die behind bars, was put off because no one on the jury was First Nation.
Others have voiced concerns about lack of First Nations jurors.
Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto applauded the report and urged the province to implement the recommendations.
“This type of exclusion contributes to excessive imprisonment of Aboriginal people. This report is an opportunity to move forward and ensure that constitutional rights of First Nation people are upheld, so they are active participants, like all Ontarians, in the jury system,” said Christa Big Canoe a legal director with ALST.
Key recommendations made by the Independent Reviewer include:
-Establishing an implementation committee with First Nations membership, government officials and individuals (including a youth Aboriginal member) who would be responsible for the implementation of the report.
-Establishing a First Nation advisory group to the Attorney General on matters relating to First Nations peoples and the justice system.
-Providing cultural training for all government officials working in the justice system who have contact with First Nations peoples (e.g. police, court workers, Crown prosecutors, prison guards and other related agencies).
-Determining promptly and urgently the feasibility and suitability of using existing government databases or other suitable sources, such as band residency information, Ministry of Transportation information, OHIP roles, and other records, to generate a database of First Nations individuals living on reserve for the purposes of compiling the jury roll.
-Amending the questionnaire sent to prospective jurors so that it is more appropriate for First Nations communities.
-Considering a procedure whereby First Nations people on reserve could volunteer for jury service as a means of supplementing other jury source lists.
-Creating an assistant deputy Attorney General position responsible for Aboriginal issues, including the implementation of this report.
The full list of the recommendations can be found at www.firstnationsandjuriesreview.ca.