Roundup: Jury selection in the crosshairs

The fallout from the Gerald Stanley trial continued in Ottawa yesterday, where the family of Colten Boushie met with ministers Carolyn Bennett and Jane Philpott about their frustrations with the justice system, and in particular the focus seemed to be on jury selection, and in particular the use of peremptory challenges in order to screen out any potential juror that looks Indigenous. In Question Period, justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said that this was under consideration as part of their broader criminal justice review, but this is a project that seems to be travelling at a glacial pace (as so many things do in this government), and we have no idea when any report or formal recommendations by the government will actually be released in advance of legislative fixes. Boushie’s family are due to meet with Wilson-Raybould, Ralph Goodale and the prime minister at some point today, but I’m not holding my breath for any timelines on action on these issues. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the premier of Saskatchewan says that he’s open to discussions about more Indigenous representation on juries, but it doesn’t sound very concrete.

The attention that the Stanley verdict has given to the problems around Indigenous representation on juries have reminded us that this is a long-standing problem that has been on the radar for many years, such as with the report by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci written for Ontario about the issue, complete with a number of recommendations. (That report spawned the Debwewin Committee, whose report is more than a year-and-a-half overdue by this point). The National Post last week had a look at the issues of stacked juries and biased media in cases like Stanley’s, and noted that there is a current study underway by an Ontario Superior Court justice looking into representation on juries with an eye to training judges in the future. Meanwhile, Senator Murray Sinclair says he will advocate for concrete changes such as limiting peremptory challenges, and provincial jury selection processes.

In terms of commentary, Colby Cosh tries to take a more dispassionate look at the jury system and wonders what we risk if we try to overturn it because we don’t like one decision out of hundreds. In a piece from 2016 that was reposted in light of recent events, Jonathan Kay wrote about his experience in a jury pool where, in a case involving a domestic homicide, the defence used their peremptory challenges to assemble an all-male, mostly visible minority jury.

Good reads:

  • At a Black History Month event last night, Justin Trudeau said that Canada needs to accept that anti-Black racism and unconscious bias exists here too.
  • Donald Trump is making angry noises at Canada over NAFTA again.
  • A deal has been struck between the CRA and the Parliamentary Budget Officer to get anonymized tax data so that he can calculate the “tax gap.”
  • The Supplementary Estimates were tabled yesterday, which includes $200 million for the upcoming G7 meeting, as well as allocations to CRA for marijuana taxation.
  • Jim Carr has repeated that the government won’t stand for any province trying to impinge on federal jurisdiction (he’s looking at you, BC).
  • The government has quietly hired a private firm to help veterans find jobs, displacing the charity Canada Company.
  • The Liberal caucus is planning a special closed-door session with MPs and staffers to underline harassment policies and how to combat it on the Hill.
  • There are questions about how the PMO is handling its internal harassment investigations.
  • At last weekend’s Manning Conference, the participants’ ideas about combatting climate change literally fit onto a scrap of hotel paper.
  • Rachel Notley won’t be attending this weekend’s federal NDP convention.
  • Here’s a profile of PMO Director of Communications Kate Purchase.
  • Apparently the NDP are not planning an investigation into how complaints against former MP Peter Stoffer were handled (i.e. shrugged off).
  • The former Green Party staffers who accused Elizabeth May of bullying are not keen on the investigative process that was started.
  • Kady O’Malley’s Process Nerd column looks at whether the opposition can force a minster to resign. (Short answer: Nope. Longer answer: Nooooooooooope.)
  • Stephen Gordon looks at how growing US deficits and Trump’s inability to understand how trade works will impact Canada’s economy.
  • As the Ontario PC leadership candidates denounce the carbon tax, Andrew Coyne reminds them that they have no choice but to accept the federal backstop.

Odds and ends:

In this week’s Law Times, I wrote about a court decision that confirms the powers of the Competition Bureau to reach outside of Canada if our markets are affected.

Here is a breakdown of what went wrong with the Vimy Centennial ceremony that Canadian officials completely ballsed up.

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