Justice system, juries process in crisis state for First Nations peoplesTuesday, February 26, 2013 by: SooToday.com Staff
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'Crisis in Ontario's justice system and jury process for First Nations' people'
Former Supreme Court Justice and Ontario's Independent Reviewer, the Hon. Frank Iacobucci, issues report on improving First Nations' representation on Ontario juries
THUNDER BAY, ON (February 26, 2013) - The Honourable Frank Iacobucci, former Supreme Court Justice and Independent Reviewer, today released his report on First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries.
The report finds that the justice system and juries process are in a state of crisis for Ontario's First Nations peoples, particularly those living in the North, and identifies 17 recommendations to improve the representation of First Nations individuals on juries and enhance their perception of the jury system.
"For Ontario's First Nations peoples, particularly in the North, the justice system and juries process generally are in a crisis," said the Hon. Frank Iacobucci. "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 Attorney General of Ontario appointed the Hon. Frank Iacobucci in August 2011 to examine, report, and offer recommendations regarding the process for inclusion of First Nation peoples living in reserve communities on the provincial jury roll.
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 (e.g. 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 17 recommendations is available on the web site of the Independent Reviewer at [this website].
"Implementing the recommendations to improve Ontario's juries and justice system will, I believe, make great strides in improving the access and participation of First Nation peoples in Ontario's justice system," added the Hon. Frank Iacobucci. "The policy changes recommended in this report are based on what we heard from the First Nations communities on the ground, and are straightforward, and largely without significant costs. These are changes that can make a difference to our juries and justice system - I look forward to their implementation."
The Independent Reviewer met with the leadership and peoples from 32 Ontario First Nations, and four First Nation organizations between November 2011 and May 2012, mostly within their communities.
Through this engagement, the Independent Reviewer found that many First Nations peoples are reluctant to participate in the jury system for several reasons:
• The conflict that exists between First Nations' cultural values, laws, and ideologies regarding traditional approaches to conflict resolution, and the values and laws that underpin the Canadian justice system.
• The systemic discrimination that either they or their families have experienced within the justice system in relation to criminal justice or child welfare.
• What First Nations peoples see as a lack knowledge and awareness of the justice system generally, and the jury system in particular.
• The desire to assume more control of community justice matters as an element of what they strongly believe is their inherent right to self-government, and at the very least be involved in developing solutions to the jury representation issue.
• Inadequate police services and associated funding which contributes to negative perceptions of the criminal justice system.
About the Independent Reviewer
The Independent Reviewer and Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, The Honourable Frank Iacobucci, was appointed on August 11, 2011 by the Attorney General of Ontario to examine, report, and offer recommendations regarding the process for inclusion of First Nation peoples living in reserve communities on the provincial jury roll from which potential jurors are selected for all jury trials and coroners' inquests.
For more information about the Independent Reviewer, including the full report in English and French and print and audio executive summaries translated into Cree, Oji-Cree, Ojibway and Mohawk, please visit [here].