First Nations join together to demand formal inquiry into jury roll system across Ontario

    THUNDER BAY, ON, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy
Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, together with Criminal Lawyers Association
President Frank Addario and Ontario Leader of the New Democratic Party Howard
Hampton, announced the expansion of the coalition between NAN and Aboriginal
Legal Services Toronto (ALST) questioning the legality of Ontario jury rolls
at a media conference this morning at Queen's Park.
    "By joining with us to demand this inquiry these Political Territorial
Organizations (PTOs) have brought strength and unity to our coalition," said
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. "As more and
more First Nations lend their voices, our demand for justice will be
impossible for the Government of Ontario to ignore."
    PTOs including Grand Council Treaty 3 and the Chiefs of Ontario have
joined the NAN and ALST coalition to demand a formal inquiry into the
exclusion of First Nations in the North from jury rolls. The coalition has
also received the support of the Criminal Lawyers' Association.
    Ogichidaa Diane M. Kelly, Grand Chief of the Treaty No.3 Nation and
representing the 28 First Nations, many of which are located in the immediate
Kenora region, has joined forces with Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Aboriginal
Legal Services of Toronto and calls upon the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney
General to make immediate changes to the way the justice system is interacting
with the First Nations people who come in contact with the system.
    "Exclusion of First Nation people as jury candidates is a clear example
of how systemic racism in the justice system continues to perpetuate the high
number of our people involved in the justice system," said Ogichidaa Diane M.
Kelly. "Eighty-five percent of the men and 95 percent of the women and youth
in custody in our region are First Nation people and I want to know how this
exclusion has contributed to these unacceptable rates. This further begs the
question as to how many convictions of First Nations persons can be challenged
as a result of this barrier to due process, bringing the administration of
justice into disrepute."
    NAN and ALST have requested that the Attorney General conduct a formal
inquiry into the jury roll system across the Province of Ontario following a
recent revelation at a Coroners Inquest that the jury roll in the Judicial
District of Kenora has systematically excluded First Nation people from jury
participation, even though the law requires that they be included.
    Evidence presented by the Coroner's Counsel at the pre-inquest motions in
the Coroners Inquest into the deaths of Jamie Goodwin and Ricardo Wesley
revealed that the legal steps required to include First Nation people from
reserves on the jury roll were ignored between the years 2000 and 2006. As a
result, only 44 First Nations individuals residing on reserves (out of a total
First Nations population of 12,111) are included on the Kenora District's
current jury roll.
    "The Government of Ontario must conduct a formal inquiry into the
legality of the jury selection system employed in the Territorial District of
Kenora since 2000 and across the Province of Ontario," said Chiefs of Ontario
Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. "By not being selected for juries, First
Nations are being denied their rightful roles as equal participants in the
justice system."

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation is an Aboriginal political organization
representing 49 First Nation communities within James Bay Treaty 9 and Ontario
First Nations part of Treaty 5 - an area spanning two-thirds of Ontario.
Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto is a multi-service legal agency providing
services to First Nation communities across the province.

    Grand Council Treaty No.3 is the Political Territorial Organization for
the 28 First Nations Members in the treaty area. The Union of Ontario Indians
is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario and is the
oldest political organization in Ontario. Chiefs of Ontario is a coordinating
body for 134 First Nation communities located within the boundaries of the
Province of Ontario.

For further information:

For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer -
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (807) 625-4906 or (807) 621-2790 mobile; Julian N.
Falconer, Lawyer for the Coalition, - Falconer Charney LLP, (416) 964-3408
ext. 248; Kimberly R. Murray, Executive Director - Aboriginal Legal Services
of Toronto, (416) 408-4041; Rhonda Kelly, Justice Coordinator - Grand Council
Treaty No.3, (807) 548-4214 or (204) 793-7664 mobile; Roger Jones, Political
Advisor - Chiefs of Ontario, (613) 327-6736; Jeffery Hewitt, President -
Indigenous Bar Association (604) 951-8807

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