Jury review committee includes six prominent Aboriginal members
Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler is looking to create fundamental change in Ontario’s justice system through the recently announced Juries Review Implementation Committee.
“For far too long the justice system has failed our people,” said Fiddler, who is co-chair of the committee. “A tragically disproportionate number of our First Nation and Metis members are being jailed while entire communities have been excluded from participation in the justice system. I am hopeful that with the Iacobucci Report and the formation of the Implementation Committee we can finally create fundamental change that will address this crisis.”
Fiddler said the appointment of six Aboriginal members to the 11 member committee is a good start to the process of enhancing First Nation representation on juries.
“I think we have a good cross-section on the committee,” Fiddler said, noting that the five Aboriginal committee members besides himself are former Treaty 3 grand chief Diane Kelly; former Kashechewan chief Jonathan Solomon; Jenny Restoule-Mallozzi, counsel for the Union of Ontario Indians; Margaret Froh, lawyer and former president of the Indigenous Bar Association; and youth representative Megan Logan, a Georgian College student from Mohawk territory. “I think it’s a balance of the different interests that are out there.”
The other members are committee co-chair Irwin Glasberg, assistant deputy attorney general; Marc Bode, regional senior justice for the northwest region; Sheila Bristo, director of divisional support branch with the Ministry of the Attorney General; Alison Pilla, assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Erwin W. Stach, former judge with the Superior Court of Justice.
“I’m confident that this group, with input and advice from our First Nation partners, has the right mix of professional expertise and lived experience to help us find the practical solutions we need to enhance the representation of First Nation people on juries,” said Attorney General John Gerretsen. “I look forward to seeing progress from the committee very soon.”
Fiddler said Nishnawbe Aski Nation is looking for the implementation of all the recommendations made in the First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries report that was delivered by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci this past February.
“Five years from now we want to see some real change in terms of how the justice system is designed and delivered in Ontario, especially in the north,” Fiddler said. “In the area of incarceration rates, hopefully we can begin to see some of these numbers go down.”
Fiddler said NAN is also looking for the committee meetings to be held in locations across Ontario.
“We’re hoping to get to places like Timmins or Kenora or Thunder Bay,” Fiddler said. “So the meetings will be over the whole province.”
Fiddler said another NAN goal is to increase jury representation to the Aboriginal population level in the region.
“It should be reflective of whatever population is in any district, whether it’s the Thunder Bay district or the Kenora district or other districts right across the province,” Fiddler said.
Fiddler would also like to see an acknowledgement of how the whole jury roll process began, noting the losses suffered by a number of First Nation families in northwestern Ontario, including the death of Poplar Hill’s Reggie Bushie in Thunder Bay while attending high school in 2007, the deaths of Ricardo Wesley and James Goodwin in the Kashechewan jailhouse fire in 2006 and the death of Fort William’s Jacy Pierre in the Thunder Bay District Jail in 2007.
Iacobucci made 17 major recommendations in his report that he viewed as a top priority for the Attorney General and the government of Ontario.
The Juries Review Implementation Committee was the first recommendation he made, while the second recommendation was the establishment of an advisory group to the Attorney General on matters affecting First Nations and the justice system.
The Ministry of the Attorney General stated the advisory group is expected to be established this fall.
The third recommendation was 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.
The report can be found on the provincial government website at http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/iacobucci/pdf/First_Nations_Representation_Ontario_Juries.pdf.
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