For Immediate Release
VANCOUVER, Coast Salish Territories – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the law abolishing peremptory challenges is constitutional. Peremptory challenges allow both sides to block potential jurors. The Court rendered its decision on October 7, 2020, the same day it heard the appeal, with reasons to follow.
The BCCLA intervened in this appeal to argue that jury diversity is essential. Jury diversity limits racial bias and promotes jury impartiality. But Canadian juries are not diverse. Black and Indigenous people are overrepresented as accused, yet underrepresented on Canadian juries. The BCCLA argued that the law abolishing peremptory challenges undermines jury diversity and violates the Charter right to be tried by an impartial tribunal.
Joshua Sealy-Harrington, counsel for the BCCLA, states: “This decision—upholding the constitutionality of abolishing peremptory challenges—is deeply discouraging. In our oral submissions before the Court, we stressed the need for safeguards against implicit bias on juries. But the Crown repeatedly indicated in its submissions that concerns about implicit bias could be addressed through alternate measures, such as challenges for cause and judicial stand bys. Whether through the courts, or through Parliament, it is imperative for those alternate measures to be directed to addressing implicit bias, which is the majority of bias in our society—otherwise, the constitutional right to an ‘impartial tribunal’ will ring hollow for racialized accused across Canada, especially Black and Indigenous accused.”
The BCCLA is represented by Joshua Sealy-Harrington and Jennifer Klinck of Power Law.