Juries Review Implementation Committee meets in Thunder Bay
Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Irwin Glasberg, co-chairs of the Juries Review Implementation Committee, and the other committee members heard about justice system and jury roll process concerns from a number of community members during the committee’s first meeting on Oct. 10 in Thunder Bay.
Concerns about Ontario’s justice system and jury roll process were heard by Ontario’s Juries Review Implementation Committee during its first session on Oct. 10 in Thunder Bay.
“It was really good this morning to hear from members of the community who talked about their own experiences, not just with the justice system but also with the jury roll process,” said Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who is co-chair of the committee. “I think it’s good for the committee to hear that and for us to learn from those types of experiences that were shared with us this morning.”
The Juries Review Implementation Committee was the first of 17 major recommendations in the Iacobucci Report to be implemented by the Ontario government. Six of the 11 committee members are Aboriginal people, including Fiddler, former Treaty 3 grand chief Diane Kelly and former Kashechewan chief Jonathan Solomon.
“What (former Supreme Court) justice Iacobucci said in his report, and he said it over and over again, is there is from the First Nations community a sense of alienation with the justice system,” Fiddler said. “They don’t trust the system, they don’t feel a part of it, and I think that is a part of the challenge that we have as a committee to create those conditions to make sure that everyone in Ontario, including our First Nations, feel comfortable enough that they want to be a part of it.”
Fiddler said that First Nations participation in Ontario’s jury roll process has “historically been very low.”
“In fact, some of the numbers that we are hearing is quite disturbing,” Fiddler said. “The fact that entire communities have been left out from the jury roll process is something that we need to fix.”
Fiddler said the meeting was a first good step for the committee.
“To have some of our community members here this morning was really encouraging,” Fiddler said. “That’s what we hope to achieve when we go to other meetings in other parts of the province, that the communities there will have their opportunity (to speak).”
In addition to the jury roll process, Fiddler said the community members brought up concerns about language translation and the need for more education in First Nation communities about the justice system.
“There has to be more done to educate our communities,” Fiddler said.
Fiddler is looking for the second meeting of the Juries Review Implementation Committee to be held in a northern community.
“It is my hope that we go to at least one or two of our fly-in communities in the north,” Fiddler said.
The Ministry of the Attorney General is planning to institute the second of Iacobucci’s recommendations, an advisory group to the Attorney General on matters affecting First Nations and the justice system, this fall.
The third recommendation called for the Ministry of the Attorney General, after obtaining input of the Juries Review Implementation Committee, to provide cultural training for all government officials working in the justice system who have contact with First Nations peoples, including police, court workers, Crown prosecutors, prison guards and other related agencies.
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