Fed­eral leg­is­la­tion would re­form jury se­lec­tion process

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY+REGION -

The fed­eral govern­ment has in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion aimed at over­haul­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, a mea­sure that makes good on a Lib­eral prom­ise to change the way ju­ries are se­lected.

A num­ber of vis­i­bly In­dige­nous peo­ple were ex­cluded from the jury that last month ac­quit­ted Saskatchewan farmer Ger­ald Stan­ley, 56, in the shoot­ing death of Colten Boushie, 22, a mem­ber of the Red Pheas­ant First Na­tion.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­sonRay­bould tabled a mas­sive bill Thurs­day that, if passed, will elim­i­nate the use of peremp­tory chal­lenges, which al­low lawyers to re­ject jury can­di­dates dur­ing the se­lec­tion process.

Speak­ing through a fam­ily friend, Boushie’s mother, Deb­bie Bap­tiste, said she is pleased about the pro­posed changes and hopes the pres­ence of In­dige­nous ju­rors will trans­late into more jus­tice for In­dige­nous peo­ple.

The prospect of some­thing good com­ing out of her son’s death gives her hope for the fu­ture, Eleanore Sun­child said on be­half of Bap­tiste.

The bill in­cludes other mea­sures aimed at tack­ling court back­logs plagu­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, in­clud­ing by re­strict­ing the use of pre­lim­i­nary in­quiries to cases where the of­fender is fac­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a life sen­tence, such as for mur­der, kid­nap­ping or ag­gra­vated sex­ual as­sault.

The On­tario govern­ment had ad­vo­cated lim­it­ing pre­lim­i­nary in­quiries to an even more lim­ited num­ber of cases — mur­der and trea­son — but At­tor­ney Gen­eral Yasir Naqvi said he is pleased with how far the fed­eral changes go.

Fewer pre­lim­i­nary in­quiries would free up re­sources that would more than com­pen­sate for a jump in sum­mary con­vic­tions re­sult­ing from the ex­tra pow­ers the bill would grant judges to clas­sify some pre­vi­ously in­dictable of­fences as sum­mary and there­fore di­rected to the pro­vin­cial courts, Naqvi added.

The bill will also ad­dress a Lib­eral cam­paign prom­ise to crack down on in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing by re­vers­ing the onus on bail for those pre­vi­ously con­victed of vi­o­lence against a cur­rent or for­mer spouse, common-law part­ner or dat­ing part­ner.

In­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence would be con­sid­ered an ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tor in sen­tenc­ing; the bill would make way for the pos­si­bil­ity of higher max­i­mum sen­tences for re­peat of­fend­ers.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau tasked Wilson-Ray­bould with re­view­ing changes to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and the sen­tenc­ing re­forms the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment brought in as part of its tough-on-crime agenda, in­clud­ing the im­pact on In­dige­nous Peo­ples and other marginal­ized groups.

That ef­fort took on an in­creased sense of ur­gency in July 2016, when the Supreme Court im­posed strict new lim­its on how long a case could take to make its way through the sys­tem.

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