January 10, 2024, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
The issue of juror pay in Ontario has long been a topic of concern, with implications that stretch far beyond the courtroom. The reality is stark: Ontarians participating in jury duty face one of the lowest compensation rates across the country. This system, while legally binding citizens to serve, fails to address the financial strain it imposes on individuals, resulting in a jury pool that doesn't accurately represent society.
What Do People Called ot Jury Duty Get Paid?
At the core of this challenge lies Ontario's compensation structure for jurors. The payment scheme is notably meager, with jurors receiving no compensation for the initial 10 days of service, a minimal $40 per day from days 11 to 49, and a modest $100 per day for service beyond day 50. Such rates are not only below par but also fail to address the financial obligations of those summoned for jury duty. The result? A scenario where individuals, especially those with lower incomes, are compelled to seek excusal due to financial incapacity, fundamentally undermining the principle of assembling a jury of peers.
Low Compensation Leads to Inequality
This imbalance in compensation creates a skewed representation within juries. Retirees or individuals from sectors with employer-supported jury leaves are more likely to serve, contrasting starkly with the socioeconomically diverse individuals who often find themselves entangled in the justice system. The lack of adequate compensation amplifies this divide, limiting the participation of individuals from different economic backgrounds and perpetuating a justice system that doesn't reflect the diversity of society.
Ontario Needs to Catch up to Neighbours
The disparity in juror pay across provinces further highlights the inadequacy of Ontario's compensation structure. With neighboring provinces revising and increasing their jury pay to reflect the rising cost of living, Ontario's stagnant rates underscore a glaring need for reform. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have all made strides to improve compensation for jurors, recognizing the value and fairness in compensating individuals adequately for their service.
While Ontario has taken steps, such as offering limited therapy sessions for jurors, it remains inert in addressing the glaring issue of juror compensation. The Ministry of the Attorney General's stance, defining jury fees as honorariums for civic duty, does little to alleviate the financial strain on jurors, overlooking the practical challenges faced by those summoned.
Action Being Taken
Efforts by advocates and legal professionals to rectify this issue, including attempts to increase compensation to ensure a more diverse representation on juries, have been met with resistance. Proposals for increased compensation to encourage broader participation have been dismissed, with the court failing to acknowledge the correlation between higher pay and reduced excusal requests based on financial hardship.
This contentious stance not only dismisses the financial realities faced by jurors but also contradicts the fundamental principle of forming a representative jury. The Supreme Court of Canada's emphasis on randomness over diversity in jury selection, while technically fair, fails to address the exclusionary impact of financial constraints on jury participation.
As the call for increased compensation gains momentum, it's crucial for Ontario to reevaluate its stance on juror pay. A fair and just system requires equitable participation from all sectors of society, and this necessitates a comprehensive review of juror compensation to ensure that financial barriers do not impede the formation of a truly representative jury. The overdue investment in citizens' ability to serve is not just a matter of monetary compensation; it's an investment in a justice system that truly reflects the diversity and values of Ontario.