Illegal Jury Roll Comes to Light at Coroners Inquest
TORONTO, Sept. 11 /CNW/ - A First Nation coalition is seeking a formal
inquiry into the jury roll system in 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.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto
(ALST) have called upon the Attorney General of Ontario to immediately
commence a "formal inquiry into the legality of the jury selection system that
has been employed in the Territorial District of Kenora since 2000 and, more
generally, across the Province of Ontario."
On September 8 and 9, 2008 pre-inquest motions were heard in Toronto in
the Coroners Inquest into the Deaths of Jamie Goodwin and Ricardo Wesley (the
tragic Kashechewan fire deaths). During the motions, concerns were raised by
the Wesley family with respect to the adequacy of the jury roll used in the
Kenora District. Evidence presented by the Coroner's Counsel revealed that the
legal steps required to include First Nation people that reside on reserves on
the jury roll were ignored between the years 2000 and 2006. The current
practice has resulted in most First Nations communities in the North being
excluded from jury rolls. As a result, there are only 44 First Nations
individuals residing on reserves (out of a total First Nations population of
12,111) on the Kenora District's current jury roll.
"First Nation people residing on reserves have the same right to be
included on jury rolls and to be tried by a jury of their peers as non-First
Nation people. These rights seem to have been ignored by the Kenora District,
and possibly elsewhere in Ontario," comments NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin
Fiddler. "A formal inquiry is required to determine the extent of the systemic
Nishnawbe Aski-Nation is a political territorial organization that is
responsible for 49 First Nations Communities in Northern Ontario with a total
population of approximately 45,000 First Nations members. Aboriginal Legal
Services of Toronto is a multi-service legal agency providing services to
First Nation communities across the province.
Available for comment by telephone is the coalition's lawyer, Julian N.
Falconer or Coalition members Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Kimberly R.
For further information:
For further information: To contact Mr. Falconer please contact Odi
Dashsambuu at Falconer Charney LLP at (416) 964-3408 ext. 248; To contact NAN
Deputy Grand Chief Fiddler please call Kristy Hankila at (807) 629-1512; To
contact Ms. Murray please call Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (416)