Significant Changes Announced to Jury Selection Process

May 07, 2019, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Brown Wooden Gavel Close-up Photography The Province has announced that changes are coming to the selection of jury pools which hopefully will result in a change in the make up juries. Ontario announced that it intends fundamental changes to the justice system by expanding the pool of potential jurors. These changes should allow for greater racial and socio-economic representation on juries.

Historically the jury pool has been made up of people on property ownership roles. The proposed changes will draw from a more comprehensive list made up of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care databases. The OPHIP database will streamline the existing process and will be representative of the provincial population makeup – the jury should be a ‘jury of the accused’s peers’.

Having juries which represent the population better should result in more just decisions. The premise is that if the jury pool is flawed in not representing the population then the resulting juries are also tainted. Ethnic disparity in jury boxes is an outdated practice that is skewed to middle/upper middle-class property owners.

MPAC officials (who hold the property role databases) concede that the database was poorly designed for the use of jury selection. It excludes people living in long term care, retirement homes, renters, and First Nations individuals. MPAC has indicated that they support the move to a single consolidated database to identify potential jurors.

The Toronto Star reported that in a study they made by having reporters record the details of juries in court:

Of the 632 jurors surveyed by reporters, 451 (71 per cent) were white; 45 (7 per cent) were Black; 42 (7 per cent) were brown; 89 (14 per cent) were Asian; and 5 (less than 1 per cent) were listed as other. Reporters were unable to identify a single Indigenous juror.

Across the aisle, the visible ethnicity of the accused presented a very different picture: Of the 59 documented accused (some trials had more than one), 27 (46 per cent) were Black; 13 (22 per cent) were white; 11 (19 per cent) were brown; five (8 per cent) were Asian and three were counted as other.

Other issues that bar true representation on juries include the pittance paid to jurors to serve. For most people it is not realistic to take days or weeks off work with no compensation at all. Currently the province pays:

  • $0 for the first ten days of service
  • From day 11-49 they pay $40/day
  • From day 50 on they pay $100/day

There is no compensation provided for parking, transit, day care, or food. Employers are required to grant leave for jurors to serve but are not required to pay their employees. Self employed individuals and employees of small companies pay a significant cost for their civic duty. Other provinces pay more per daily or require employers to continue pay and benefits for employees while they serve.


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