The jury selection process challenged before the Supreme Court of Canada

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A law passed by the liberal government to counter racism in the justice system and to diversify juries, is thus challenged before the highest judicial body in the country, as groups claim that the changes undermine the rights of the accused .

Former Liberal Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced the changes amid public outrage over the trial of Gerald Stanley, a white Saskatchewan farmer, in 2018.

The man was acquitted of the second degree murder of Colten Boushie, a 22 year old native.

During the jury selection process, all visibly Indigenous candidates were excluded by defense counsel for the accused through peremptory challenges.

Gerald Stanley was acquitted of the second degree murder of Colten Boushie, a 22 year old Native.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Colten Boushie / Facebook and Liam Richards

Guarantee diversity within the jury

Mr. Chouhan tries to obtain the power to have a word on the composition of its jury, says Jessica Magonet, a lawyer with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. The organization is one of the interveners in the file.

The organization considers that the Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other laws and to make consequential amendments to certain laws, which was passed in 2018, prevents some defendants from getting a fair trial.

Lawyer Jessica Magonet explains that this law abolished the peremptory challenge of jurors. This allowed Crown and defense lawyers to refuse on a number of occasions and without justification that a person was on the jury.

If the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association is involved in this file, it is because it finds primordial maintain the peremptory challenge and ensure diversity among jurors.

The Supreme Court of Canada viewed from outside at the end of a sunny day.

The Supreme Court of Canada is considering the question of the constitutionality of the jury selection process.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Benoit Roussel

The organization defends two arguments. Diversity in the jury ensures that racial prejudice can be limited in jury deliberations and also promotes the impartiality of juries, is the first.

Impartiality of a tribunal is a constitutional right under section 11 (d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ajoute Jessica Magonet.

We know that by abolishing peremptory challenges there can be negative effects on the diversity of juries. It can make our juries even less diverse than they are now.

Jessica Magonet, Lawyer, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association

The second argument is the fact that peremptory challenge is a right for the accused, but not necessarily for the Crown, as the Constitution stipulates.

According to Mr. Chouhan’s lawyers, the changes undermine an accused’s right to a fair trial.

Those accused are often marginalized or racialized people, and there are often people in society who do not want to give them the same opportunities as others., says defense lawyer Dirk Derstine.

I am of course sensitive to the evidence [de discrimination] against indigenous peoples, but this is not a situation for Mr. Chouhan, he adds.

Additional protection

While the law has sought to make its courts and tribunals more representative, Jessica Magonet says, however, that there are very few protections to ensure that a jury is representative in Canada.

When it comes to people who are racialized, native people, black people, we know they are overrepresented among accused people, and peremptory challenges give them more power over the composition of the jury., says the lawyer.

According to information gathered by Saïda Ouchaou and Olivia Stefanovich





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