The BCCLA is asking B.C.’s Attorney General to investigate whether or not current Sheriff policy is excluding on-reserve aboriginal communities from the jury pool. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada stopped sending provinces lists of on-reserve residents for jury pools in 2000. An investigation by the BCCLA raises serious questions about the adequacy of provincial policies to address that change in federal policy, and whether the provincial policy that exists is even being implemented by Sheriffs’ offices.
“The policy to obtain aboriginal names for jury lists itself is problematic and excludes a large number of people, especially people who live on reserves away from urban centres,” notes Jason Gratl, Vice-President of the BCCLA. “But we’ve also received information that suggests that even this problematic policy isn’t being followed, and that no systemic efforts are being made to ensure aboriginal representation in the jury pool that our coroners and courts rely on.”
The policy obtained by the BCCLA says that Sheriffs in local offices are supposed to write to all reserves within 100km that have not been enumerated to ask for names and addresses for jury pools. Both the sheriff’s office contacted by the BCCLA and all band offices contacted by the BCCLA were not aware of any instance when such letters requesting names for jury lists had been written, even for reserves within 100km of a sheriff’s office. Elections BC said they had no special process for enumerating reserves and no list of “enumerated reserves.”
“This policy, which appears to be gathering dust, relies on a list of reserves that does not exist and on enumeration that is not taking place,” said Gratl. “Given that aboriginal people represent a disproportionate share of our prison population, they should represent at least a proportionate share of our jury pool population. We know the AG shares our values of representation in all aspects of our justice system, and we hope he investigates this immediately.”
Click here to read the BCCLA’s letter to the AGBC
Click here to read the Ontario Court of Appeal decision on Coroner’s Juries
Click here to read the B.C. Sheriffs’ policy
Click here to read the response of Elections B.C.
Jason Gratl, Vice-President, (604) 694-1919
David Eby, Executive Director, (604) 630-9752 or (778) 865-7997