(pixabay stock image)

(pixabay stock image)

Opposition leaders want juror demographic data to help fight Canada’s systemic biases

No information of jury makeup collected in Canada right now, preventing research into trends

A lack of information on the race, gender and age of jurors hinders the fight to address systemic racism and other inequities in the criminal justice system, federal opposition leaders and others say.

While studies in the United States show juror race and age have a marked effect on trial verdicts, Canada collects no data allowing similar research here, The Canadian Press reported recently.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh, who practised law in Ontario, expressed surprise at the data gap. Having evidence of jury makeup would help lawmakers make more informed decisions about improving the selection process, he said.

Singh said he would like to see laws and practices put in place to ensure juries represent the community, adding he would work with provinces and territories to see demographic information collected.

“The goal should be first identify: Are our juries reflecting the population, and if not what we can do to improve the demographics,” Singh said in an interview. “Better juries, better laws that all have the goal of justice and fairness in mind.”

Similarly, Green party Leader Annamie Paul said a clear picture without jury data on race, gender and occupation among other things is impossible.

“Lack of collecting this data is going to be one of the key barriers to truly dismantling systemic racism within our criminal justice system,” Paul said. “You can’t create legislation, really effective legislation, without this information.”

Sen. Kim Pate, a longtime advocate for justice reform, said collecting disaggregated data — information that does not identify individual jurors — would help understand jury selection and its impact.

“Concerns regarding the lack of this type of data are a recurring theme with nearly every criminal law bill considered by the Senate,” Pate said.

Conservative and Bloc Quebecois leaders Erin O’Toole and Yves-Francois Blanchet did not respond to requests for interviews.

The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions to Minister of Justice David Lametti, who said via a spokesman the government was on board with collecting information that would help address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and racialized people who end up behind bars, which could include scrutinizing jury makeup.

As one example, David Taylor pointed to the federal-provincial-territorial National Justice Statistics Initiative, which sets goals and objectives related to justice data. Relevant deputy ministers have endorsed the collection and analysis of Indigenous and race-based data as a priority for the initiative, he said.

In addition, the recent budget earmarked $6.7 million over five years for Justice Canada to improve the collection and use of demographic data, while Statistics Canada would receive $172 million over five years for its “disaggregated data action plan.”

“Effective policy requires good data,” Taylor said. “This investment will support the use of advanced analytics so that we can better tailor interventions and improve social outcomes for different groups of people.”

Canada’s chief statistician, Anil Arora, said Canadians have long been reluctant to collect demographic information but people have come to understand the impact it can have in crafting solutions.

The government now wants to collect demographic information in a systematic way, including addressing gaps related to the justice system, Arora said. Statistics Canada can access data through the justice initiative, he said.

“What we need to do now is to align the disaggregated data at the source of collection, or at least be able to link it to other data sources, to get at what is the profile, whether it’s somebody serving on the jury (or) part of the judicial system itself,” Arora said.

“The country needs this type of information, so that it can see what’s going on sooner and it can react sooner, and it can take decisions.”

—Hina Alam and Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

RELATED: BC Aboriginals: ‘There are two systems of justice in this country’

RELATED: George Floyd spurred broad push for change globally, activists say

Just Posted

Craft Culture Events hosts its first of four summer markets at Prospera Place in Kelowna (Craft Culture Events/Contributed).
Kelowna’s Prospera Place summer market a success

Craft Culture Events hosts its first of four summer markets and vendors were ‘excited’ to be back

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

(Dave Ogilvie/Contributed)
UPDATE: West Kelowna fire crews rescue injured mountain biker

The injury took place at the top of Smith Creek Road

Kelowna flags were flown at half-mast after the discovery of a residential school burial site in Kamloops. (File photo)
Central Okanagan school board chair reflects on recent tragedies

Moyra Baxter offers condolenses to residential school victims, slain Muslim family

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Most Read