Statements & Speeches

Bill S-252, An Act respecting Jury Duty Appreciation Week – Third Reading

May 9, 2024

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak at third reading of Bill S-252, An Act respecting Jury Duty Appreciation Week.

Now that our former colleague Senator Boisvenu has retired, I have taken on responsibilities as the critic of this bill. Senator Moncion’s bill would designate the second week of May as jury duty appreciation week — it’s this week, in fact.

Colleagues, I will be frank: When I was preparing to scrutinize this bill at our Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee meetings, I was skeptical. There is an abundance of Senate public bills in our chamber at the moment. We spend a great deal of time and resources studying them. With so many appreciation days and weeks on the calendar already, it is not easy to persuade me that it is critical to introduce another.

It was with this orientation that I attended our first meeting on this bill in February, when we heard from Senator Moncion. However, colleagues, her testimony changed my mind. Senator Moncion was honest, forthright and vulnerable in sharing her experiences of being a juror, and the impacts that the experience has had in an ongoing way on her life.

I had some questions about her bill; perhaps you do too. Senator Moncion very aptly addressed my concerns. I will share her answers with you now. However, I recommend that you go on to SenVu and watch her appearance at our committee, if you haven’t already. It is an hour of testimony that is truly worthy of your attention.

Senator Omidvar posed two questions that I shared: Why did Senator Moncion propose an appreciation week rather than a day? Why did she choose the second week of May?

Senator Moncion explained that a week provides more time for awareness campaigns to reach the public to foster understanding of what jury duty entails. The second week of May was chosen to align with the week that is already recognized in some jurisdictions — though not all — in the United States.

Senator Moncion also noted that the courts try to wrap up trials during the month of May, and, therefore, she argued May could be a valuable time to bring awareness and recognition to the challenges that jurors face.

Senator Cordy then asked about what an appreciation week might mean to Canadians who have served on a jury and to Canadians who have not served on a jury.

Senator Moncion spoke about the alienation that can come from being a juror. She reminded us that, until recently, jurors were not able to speak to a psychologist or psychotherapist about their experiences. She hopes that an appreciation week will bring former jurors together. She said:

. . . being on a jury and hearing the story from others brings a connection between us. We find that we’re not the only ones who feel like this . . . .

For Canadians who have not been on a jury, the week would serve an educational purpose. Most Canadians do not know what being on a jury involves. Furthermore, many employers don’t know what jury duty entails.

Senator Moncion pointed out that there are costs associated with being a juror that many do not anticipate. An appreciation week would provide an opportunity to share information about these aspects, but also on mental health, access to justice and our judicial system.

I asked Senator Moncion whether jury duty appreciation week might deter people from becoming jurors. Senator Moncion explained that while there are good things about being a juror, such as becoming familiar with the judicial system, there are also consequences. She cautioned that there are good reasons for people to not become jurors, such as pre-existing mental health challenges and financial constraints. More awareness would equip Canadians so that they would better understand what is being asked of them when they are summoned to jury duty.

I also asked Senator Moncion about compensation for jurors, which varies widely across Canada. This bill does not specifically mention compensation, but lack of adequate compensation does influence who is able to become a juror. An increased awareness of this challenge could lead the provinces and territories to adjust their compensation schemes so that serving on a jury is accessible to all Canadians.

All of my colleagues on the committee asked thoughtful and important questions of Senator Moncion and of all our witnesses.

We heard from seven other witnesses during our study of Bill S-252: Tina Daenzer, who was the head juror during the Paul Bernardo case in 1995 and is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Canadian Juries Commission; Mark Farrant, who served as a juror on a graphic first-degree murder trial in 2014 and later founded the Canadian Juries Commission; Dan Cozine, a high school principal who served on a murder and attempted murder trial in 2016; Patrick Fleming, a municipal employee who spent 10 months as a juror on a high‑profile murder trial in 2014; the Honourable Patrick J. LeSage, former chief justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, who presided over the Paul Bernardo case in 1995 and arranged for counselling to be provided to the jurors; Dr. Patrick Baillie, a psychologist who has worked with former jurors; and Jolene Hansell from the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. I thank all the witnesses for their valuable testimony.

Ms. Hansell reminded our committee that Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, but are under-represented as jurors in cases with these defendants.

Dr. Baillie reiterated the challenge of low pay for jurors, and explained that this makes it hard to have diverse juries. He explained:

. . . unionized employees often have it written into their contract that they’ll continue to receive their salary while they’re away from work, sometimes for a fixed period of time. So we end up with juries that are often made up of pensioners or union members and therefore not necessarily representative of the community. . . .

He told us that he had recently spoken to a former premier and a former justice minister about compensation for jurors. Both reportedly said, “I thought that had been taken care of.” He argued that jury duty appreciation week will remind provincial governments and citizens across the country of the duty they have.

Colleagues, none of the witnesses who appeared at our committee argued against Bill S-252, nor did the committee receive any correspondence critical of the bill. We, therefore, passed the bill unamended.

I will leave you with the words of Mr. Cozine, the high school principal and former juror from Saskatchewan. He told us the following:

I walked into a jury box having no idea what I was in for. I learned so much about the justice system and the professionals in the courts, from police, lawyers, doctors, coroners and even the judge. It was such a valuable learning experience. The public has a very negative point of view when it comes to being on a jury. This is a week that can potentially change that. This week can highlight that while it can be a difficult task to undertake, it can be a rewarding one — one of service to country and the justice system and of learning. This week can also educate employers that do not, or in some cases cannot, work with employees to help with pay, benefits and time off to act as a juror and potentially time off post-trial to recover. The act we are discussing here today will be of great benefit to the justice system, as it will allow for more information to be shared about juries, their function and their importance.

Colleagues, the testimony I heard at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology persuaded me that this bill should pass. I hope that you, too, have been persuaded of this bill’s importance, and that it will be approved by our chamber soon so that it can proceed to consideration in the other place.