The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) has long led the charge against a lack of aboriginal representation on juries, and the chief expressed satisfaction on Thursday when former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci was appointed to look into the matter for Ontario.
“NAN has fought for years to uncover the truth about the systematic exclusion of First Nations from the Ontario justice system. It is right, and proper that a credible jurist such as Justice Iacobucci, independent of the Attorney General, inquire into and report on the extent of the exclusions, and propose solutions going forward,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose in a statement. “First Nations alienation from the justice system is our reality. First Nations overrepresentation among those who are charged and jailed is only made worse by the fact that First Nations have been systematically denied their right to serve on juries.”
Iacobucci will investigate and submit a report within a year, the office of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General announced. Part of his charge is to recommend ways to ensure that First Nations are represented proportionally in the jury rolls, the Canadian Press reported.
The review stems from the 2008 Kashechewan Inquest, a coroner’s examination of the deaths of Jamie Goodwin and Ricardo Wesley, when it was found that the Kenora Judicial District jury rolls listed just 14 of the 49 First Nations that comprise NAN. Not only that, but the Kashechewan First Nation had never had anyone included on a jury roll.
NAN filed suit along with two First Nation families, and in March 2011 the parties won a court appeal that recognized their right to conduct inquiries into the validity of juries empanelled in the Thunder Bay Judicial District, the nation said in a background statement.