Justice can't be blind to a fundamental unfairness

Opinion Feb 14, 2018 New Hamburg Independent

It's said that justice is blind but apparently not when it comes to jury selection in Canadian courtrooms.

That seems to be one of the controversial take-aways from the deliberations in the Colten Boushie case last week in Saskatchewan. The 22-year-old apparently was looking for help at the farm of Gerald Stanley when the farmer with a gun confronted the native youth trespassing on his property.

There have been questions raised about why Boushie was really there, but no one can dispute that in the course of events the unarmed member of the Red Pheasant First Nation was shot dead by Stanley, who asserted the shooting was an accident.

Accident or not, Stanley was tried for second-degree murder and was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. Outrage ensued after the verdict because while the jury might have represented a jury of Stanley's peers there was a question if it reflected Boushie's peers in a community almost split evenly between natives and non-natives.

The outrage became even more pinpoint when it was learned that defence lawyers used peremptory challenges to exclude anyone who might be visibly identified as native from the jury pool.

Under Canada's Criminal Code, defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors can exclude people from a jury without giving any reason through these peremptory challenges. It left the implication after the fact that race may have been the main factor in dismissing some prospective jurors, and although it might not have changed the outcome it did seem unfair to those who have long argued that the justice system doesn't represent them.

They have a point because Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada's prisons and under-represented on juries, and we've see systematic abuses in other court systems and perhaps even ours that use the law as a bludgeon against minority groups and legalize racism.

Perhaps with more representative members on a jury panel there would be more understanding of circumstances and conditions that create criminality, and look for ways to create rehabilitation and reconciliation than simple retribution.

Both crown and defence lawyers had up to 13 of these peremptory challenges in this case and at the very least should have had to give reason for dismissing a potential juror. "I don't like the look of him or her," isn't a valid one.

The federal government said it will look into the practice and see if more can't be done to make sure that the administration of justice is down without prejudice.

Justice might be blind but it can't be silent whenever there is a perception the fundamental fairness of our court systems is in question, and there are measures that can be taken to represent us all.

Justice can't be blind to a fundamental unfairness

Feds should take a hard look at peremptory challenges

Opinion Feb 14, 2018 New Hamburg Independent

It's said that justice is blind but apparently not when it comes to jury selection in Canadian courtrooms.

That seems to be one of the controversial take-aways from the deliberations in the Colten Boushie case last week in Saskatchewan. The 22-year-old apparently was looking for help at the farm of Gerald Stanley when the farmer with a gun confronted the native youth trespassing on his property.

There have been questions raised about why Boushie was really there, but no one can dispute that in the course of events the unarmed member of the Red Pheasant First Nation was shot dead by Stanley, who asserted the shooting was an accident.

Accident or not, Stanley was tried for second-degree murder and was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. Outrage ensued after the verdict because while the jury might have represented a jury of Stanley's peers there was a question if it reflected Boushie's peers in a community almost split evenly between natives and non-natives.

The outrage became even more pinpoint when it was learned that defence lawyers used peremptory challenges to exclude anyone who might be visibly identified as native from the jury pool.

Under Canada's Criminal Code, defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors can exclude people from a jury without giving any reason through these peremptory challenges. It left the implication after the fact that race may have been the main factor in dismissing some prospective jurors, and although it might not have changed the outcome it did seem unfair to those who have long argued that the justice system doesn't represent them.

They have a point because Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada's prisons and under-represented on juries, and we've see systematic abuses in other court systems and perhaps even ours that use the law as a bludgeon against minority groups and legalize racism.

Perhaps with more representative members on a jury panel there would be more understanding of circumstances and conditions that create criminality, and look for ways to create rehabilitation and reconciliation than simple retribution.

Both crown and defence lawyers had up to 13 of these peremptory challenges in this case and at the very least should have had to give reason for dismissing a potential juror. "I don't like the look of him or her," isn't a valid one.

The federal government said it will look into the practice and see if more can't be done to make sure that the administration of justice is down without prejudice.

Justice might be blind but it can't be silent whenever there is a perception the fundamental fairness of our court systems is in question, and there are measures that can be taken to represent us all.

Justice can't be blind to a fundamental unfairness

Feds should take a hard look at peremptory challenges

Opinion Feb 14, 2018 New Hamburg Independent

It's said that justice is blind but apparently not when it comes to jury selection in Canadian courtrooms.

That seems to be one of the controversial take-aways from the deliberations in the Colten Boushie case last week in Saskatchewan. The 22-year-old apparently was looking for help at the farm of Gerald Stanley when the farmer with a gun confronted the native youth trespassing on his property.

There have been questions raised about why Boushie was really there, but no one can dispute that in the course of events the unarmed member of the Red Pheasant First Nation was shot dead by Stanley, who asserted the shooting was an accident.

Accident or not, Stanley was tried for second-degree murder and was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. Outrage ensued after the verdict because while the jury might have represented a jury of Stanley's peers there was a question if it reflected Boushie's peers in a community almost split evenly between natives and non-natives.

The outrage became even more pinpoint when it was learned that defence lawyers used peremptory challenges to exclude anyone who might be visibly identified as native from the jury pool.

Under Canada's Criminal Code, defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors can exclude people from a jury without giving any reason through these peremptory challenges. It left the implication after the fact that race may have been the main factor in dismissing some prospective jurors, and although it might not have changed the outcome it did seem unfair to those who have long argued that the justice system doesn't represent them.

They have a point because Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada's prisons and under-represented on juries, and we've see systematic abuses in other court systems and perhaps even ours that use the law as a bludgeon against minority groups and legalize racism.

Perhaps with more representative members on a jury panel there would be more understanding of circumstances and conditions that create criminality, and look for ways to create rehabilitation and reconciliation than simple retribution.

Both crown and defence lawyers had up to 13 of these peremptory challenges in this case and at the very least should have had to give reason for dismissing a potential juror. "I don't like the look of him or her," isn't a valid one.

The federal government said it will look into the practice and see if more can't be done to make sure that the administration of justice is down without prejudice.

Justice might be blind but it can't be silent whenever there is a perception the fundamental fairness of our court systems is in question, and there are measures that can be taken to represent us all.