(pixabay stock image)

(pixabay stock image)

Opposition leaders want juror demographic data to help fight Canada’s systemic biases

No information of jury makeup collected in Canada right now, preventing research into trends

A lack of information on the race, gender and age of jurors hinders the fight to address systemic racism and other inequities in the criminal justice system, federal opposition leaders and others say.

While studies in the United States show juror race and age have a marked effect on trial verdicts, Canada collects no data allowing similar research here, The Canadian Press reported recently.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh, who practised law in Ontario, expressed surprise at the data gap. Having evidence of jury makeup would help lawmakers make more informed decisions about improving the selection process, he said.

Singh said he would like to see laws and practices put in place to ensure juries represent the community, adding he would work with provinces and territories to see demographic information collected.

“The goal should be first identify: Are our juries reflecting the population, and if not what we can do to improve the demographics,” Singh said in an interview. “Better juries, better laws that all have the goal of justice and fairness in mind.”

Similarly, Green party Leader Annamie Paul said a clear picture without jury data on race, gender and occupation among other things is impossible.

“Lack of collecting this data is going to be one of the key barriers to truly dismantling systemic racism within our criminal justice system,” Paul said. “You can’t create legislation, really effective legislation, without this information.”

Sen. Kim Pate, a longtime advocate for justice reform, said collecting disaggregated data — information that does not identify individual jurors — would help understand jury selection and its impact.

“Concerns regarding the lack of this type of data are a recurring theme with nearly every criminal law bill considered by the Senate,” Pate said.

Conservative and Bloc Quebecois leaders Erin O’Toole and Yves-Francois Blanchet did not respond to requests for interviews.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions to Minister of Justice David Lametti, who said via a spokesman the government was on board with collecting information that would help address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and racialized people who end up behind bars, which could include scrutinizing jury makeup.

As one example, David Taylor pointed to the federal-provincial-territorial National Justice Statistics Initiative, which sets goals and objectives related to justice data. Relevant deputy ministers have endorsed the collection and analysis of Indigenous and race-based data as a priority for the initiative, he said.

In addition, the recent budget earmarked $6.7 million over five years for Justice Canada to improve the collection and use of demographic data, while Statistics Canada would receive $172 million over five years for its “disaggregated data action plan.”

“Effective policy requires good data,” Taylor said. “This investment will support the use of advanced analytics so that we can better tailor interventions and improve social outcomes for different groups of people.”

Canada’s chief statistician, Anil Arora, said Canadians have long been reluctant to collect demographic information but people have come to understand the impact it can have in crafting solutions.

The government now wants to collect demographic information in a systematic way, including addressing gaps related to the justice system, Arora said. Statistics Canada can access data through the justice initiative, he said.

“What we need to do now is to align the disaggregated data at the source of collection, or at least be able to link it to other data sources, to get at what is the profile, whether it’s somebody serving on the jury (or) part of the judicial system itself,” Arora said.

“The country needs this type of information, so that it can see what’s going on sooner and it can react sooner, and it can take decisions.”

—Hina Alam and Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

RELATED: BC Aboriginals: ‘There are two systems of justice in this country’

RELATED: George Floyd spurred broad push for change globally, activists say

Just Posted

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Shanna Ramm of Mosaic is the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Disability Management from Pacific Coast University-Workplace Health Sciences. Her convocation took place virtually on Dec. 1, 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
PROGRESS 2021: Pacific Coast University celebrates with milestones

Alberni institution earns $6M return-to-work grant from province

The front entrance of West Coast General Hospital features a roundabout and a garden. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: West Coast General Hospital sees changing of the guard

New doctors are establishing practices in Port Alberni

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Most Read