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BC takes interim step to improve aboriginal representation on juries

The BCCLA is congratulating the government of British Columbia on amending and updating the province’s jury policy to improve aboriginal representation on juries. The move comes after the BCCLA raised concerns that the policy was outdated and was not followed by sheriffs, which could lead to aboriginal people not being included on jury lists.

“With aboriginal people disproportionately over-represented at all steps of our criminal justice system, having the one area where they are under-represented be justice administration makes no sense,” said David Eby, Executive Director of the BCCLA. “While this improved policy is a good step forward, the province must improve their work with First Nations communities in making criminal justice work for them and involve aboriginal people in every step of the process.”

Ontario has appointed a retired Supreme Court of Canada judge, the Honourable Frank Iacobucci, to review the process for including people who live on reserve communities on the province’s jury rolls. B.C. has, for the first time in many years, now written to elected Band Chiefs asking for lists of residents who live on reserve so that they may be included on the jury rolls.

“The sheriff policy provided to your organization was first prepared approximately 20 years ago […],” wrote Attorney General Barry Penner to the BCCLA. “To improve the sheriff’s [jury] database in this regard, Mr. Rob Wood, Assistant Deputy Minister, Court Services Branch, has written to all Band leaders in the province requesting their lists of persons residing on reserves.”

“Asking for lists of residents is a great first step,” said Eby. “But outreach to First Nations on justice system issues like jury participation must be an ongoing process. We hope the province monitors Ontario’s review and its recommendations for ways to improve going forward.”

Click here to read the BCCLA’s original letter to the province

Click here to read the steps the province has taken

David Eby, Executive Director, (604) 630-9752