Results expected from jury roll inquiry
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is looking for concrete results after the First Nations Representations on Ontario Juries report was released on Feb. 26 in Thunder Bay.
“We want to see some solid markers,” said Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, noting the implementation committee established after the 2007 Ipperwash Inquiry is “only halfway there” to implementing recommendations. “We want the implementation committee to be formed fairly quickly in consultation with our communities and to be properly resourced with a clear mandate to move forward.”
Former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, independent reviewer of the Ontario Juries report, found that the justice system and the juries process is in a state of crisis for Ontario’s First Nations people, particularly those living in the north.
The report identified 17 recommendations to improve the representation of First Nations individuals on juries and to enhance their perception of the jury system, including establishing an implementation committee and establishing an First Nation advisory group to the Attorney General.
Attorney General John Gerretsen agreed to immediately work to address those two recommendations.
“Since no solution to increasing First Nation representation on jury rolls can occur without working directly with First Nation partners, we will form an implementation committee that includes representatives from the First Nations community and from various government ministries,” Gerretsen said. “The committee will consider the report's recommendations, and how they might be implemented. A provincial advisory group will also be set up to provide advice to the Attorney General on matters relating to First Nations and the justice system.”
Julian Falconer, NAN’s legal counsel, said it is not enough to simply fix First Nations representation on jury rolls, noting that First Nations youth are being disproportionately jailed and First Nations police services are operating without a regulatory framework and are “grossly” underfunded.
“These impact directly on the willingness of First Nations to engage in the justice system,” Falconer said. “All of these pieces fit in together — one can’t be touched without the other.”
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