Indigenous Bar Association Calls for the Inclusion of First Nations on the Jury Rolls in Ontario
For Immediate Release
June 16, 2015
INDIGENOUS BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR THE INCLUSION
OF FIRST NATIONS ON THE JURY ROLLS IN ONTARIO
OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada recently released its decision in R. v. Kokopenace, a case involving the under-representation of on-reserve First Nations residents on jury rolls in Ontario. The decision, from the highest court in Canada, is disturbing in that it fails to take account of the “substantially different cultural values and experiences of aboriginal people” and ignores previous rulings from the same Court which recognizes and affirms the unique role and identity that First Nations occupy in the founding of this country.
“This decision calls into question the important advances in reconciliation that have been made between First Nations people and Canada,” says Koren Lightning-Earle, President of the Indigenous Bar Association.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has publically stated that reconciliation “is founded on an ideal of equality and mutual respect. It eschews discrimination in all its forms. In this sense, it takes us back to the early relations between Europeans and First Nations, and our initial historic phase of cooperation based on mutual need and respect.”
“Ensuring First Nations people are properly represented by a jury of their peers is a foundational component of Canada’s criminal justice system. The disregard of Aboriginal Peoples being tried by a representative composition of a jury is discriminatory and offends the principles of the Charter,” said Lightning-Earle.
Denying Mr. Kokopenace his section 11 Charter rights also stands in stark opposition to the recent recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, which calls for, “establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”
In the spirit of advancing reconciliation the Indigenous Bar Association calls upon the Government of Ontario to heed the advice of Justice Iacobucci’s report First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future and Justice Harry LaForme of the Ontario Court of Appeal, to immediately address the standard for the inclusion of First Nations on the jury roll which can only be seen as a change to the current behaviour.
Justice Iacobucci in his final report provided the following insight, “…meaningful progress can only be made in improving the representation of First Nations peoples on Ontario’s jury roll if steps are also taken at the same time to respond to the systemic issues that have prevented First Nations peoples from participating in Ontario’s justice system.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION: contact Koren Lightning-Earle, President of the Indigenous Bar Association at: [email protected] or at 780.721.2345 or visit our website at www.indigenousbar.ca.