Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Supreme Court Decision Doesn't Excuse Ontario from Trying to Get More Natives onto Jury Pools

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Supreme Court Decision Doesn't Excuse Ontario from Trying to Get More Natives onto Jury Pools

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Supreme Court decision doesn't excuse Ontario from trying to get more natives onto jury pools

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published May 29:

When the Supreme Court recently issued its decision clearing the Ontario government of responsibility for a lack of native representation on juries, some saw it as a setback for aboriginal justice rights.

It needn't be. By highlighting problems native people face in the justice system the ruling may well help nudge things in a better direction.

Despite being cleared of any fault, there is much Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government can and must do to resolve the issues spotlighted in the decision.

The Supreme Court case arose after Clifford Kokopenace, an aboriginal man from the Grassy Narrows reserve, was convicted of manslaughter in the 2007 death of Taylor Assin. But before sentencing in 2008 his lawyers learned that natives comprised just 4.1 per cent of the roll from which jurors were selected, although on-reserve residents in the area comprised 32 per cent of the adult population. Lawyers argued his charter rights to a fair and impartial jury were violated. Ontario's Court of Appeal agreed.

The Supreme Court did not. In a 5-2 decision the court ruled that an accused's right to a representative jury is "not the appropriate mechanism for repairing the damaged relationship between particular societal groups and our criminal justice system." Nor, it wrote, is Ontario required to tackle systemic problems contributing to the "reluctance" of aboriginals living on reserves to participate in the jury process.

The court also ruled that Ontario's efforts to include aboriginal on-reserve residents in the process were "reasonable" -- and there is no right to a jury roll of a particular composition, nor to one that proportionally represents diverse groups in Canada. …

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