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The Juries Review Implementation Committee

Thursday January 9, 2014
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Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler was appointed to co-chair Ontario’s Jury Review Implementation Committee in 2013.

The establishment of a juries review committee to address the lack of Aboriginal representation on juries is Wawatay’s Justice story of the year.

In February, former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci delivered a presentation of the First Nations Representations on Ontario Juries report after a year-and-a-half of studying the lack of Aboriginal representation on juries.

The first recommendation Iacobucci listed was to establish an implementation committee to review the issue.

In June, Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler was appointed to co-chair Ontario’s Jury Review Implementation Committee.

“I know it’s going to be a lot of work — it’s a real challenge to try to fix a system that hasn’t worked for a long time,” Fiddler said.

“For far too long the justice system has failed our people,” said Fiddler. “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.”

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.

The other five Aboriginal committee members 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.

(Editor's note: since the original publication of the story, Solomon has been replaced by Barney Batise, a NAN Elder and former chief of Matachewan First Nation.)

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.

Concerns about Ontario’s justice system and jury roll process were heard by Ontario’s Juries Review Implementation Committee during its first session in October in Thunder Bay.

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.

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.

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