We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:
THAT, WHEREAS for six years the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) listened to thousands of former students of residential schools and their families testify to the devastating legacy of this national policy of assimilation and published 94 Calls to Action for Canada to embrace reconciliation and overcome systemic racism;
WHEREAS in February 2013 the Hon. Frank lacobucci issued his report, First Nations Representation on Ontario's Juries, describing and criticizing the underrepresentation of First Nations peoples on juries specifically and in Ontario's judicial administration system generally - a situation not unique to Ontario; and
WHEREAS on February 7, 2018 the Parliament of Canada approved overwhelmingly the second reading of Bill C-262 to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.
THEREFORE, YOUR PETITIONERS call on the House of Commons to immediately undertake to encourage the provinces to reform their jury selection systems and other judicial reforms and to enact its own reforms as described in the TRC Calls to Action 25-42 to ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done across the country with respect to all people, including Indigenous people.
The Government of Canada is fully committed to implementing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Department of Justice in particular has made significant progress implementing the Calls to Action on which it is leading. For example, the Department recently completed a broad examination of Canada’s criminal justice system including a review of the changes made to the system as well as sentencing reforms made in the last decade and their impact on Canadians and on Indigenous people in particular. Additionally, in 2018, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety agreed to develop a Pan-Canadian Strategy to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.
In the previous Parliament, the Government introduced Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Actand other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (the “Act”). The Act was informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, including Call to Action 30 concerning the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons in the criminal justice system. The Act was also informed by concerns about the underrepresentation of Indigenous persons on Canadian juries. Former Bill C-75 received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019, and the jury reforms came into force on September 19, 2019.
The reforms included the abolition of peremptory challenges that lawyers used previously to screen potential jurors during the in-court jury selection process without having to provide a reason. This brought Canada in line with many other common law jurisdictions and addressed concerns from academics and civil society of the potential for peremptory challenges to be used in a discriminatory manner.
The Act addresses the issue of discrimination in the jury selection process as noted in the 1991 Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba. The findings of Justice Iacobucci in the 2013 Report on First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries were also taken into consideration.
Federal officials consulted their provincial and territorial counterparts on the topic of jury representativeness. In particular, issues of Indigenous overrepresentation and proposed amendments such as the abolition of peremptory challenges to address concerns about transparency and jury representativeness were discussed. The federal government also showed leadership on these issues by communicating with the provincial and territorial governments to encourage close collaboration to achieve meaningful results in supporting jurors across the country.
The Government of Canada believes that implementing the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action is a critical step in Canada’s journey to reconciliation. Reconciliation is a Canadian imperative, and not an Indigenous issue. The federal government will continue to address the historic and contemporary impacts of colonialism on federal laws, policies and practices. Beyond implementing the above-mentioned measures, the Government of Canada is also committed to reviewing and modernizing the administration of justice, introducing co-developed legislation by the end of 2020 to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and changing the education and culture within the Canadian legal system.
The Government of Canada and Department of Justice officials continue to communicate with provincial and territorial counterparts on the issue of jury representativeness and follow the impact of jury reforms in the criminal justice system.
Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.