Canada has a jury diversity problem.

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We're heading to court

Dear Friend,

Jury diversity is vital for a fair trial. It limits racial bias and promotes jury impartiality.

But Canadian juries are not diverse.

Last week, we were at the Supreme Court of Canada to fight for jury diversity. In R v. Chouhan, the Court was asked to determine whether a law passed last year abolishing peremptory challenges was constitutional.

Peremptory challenges allowed defendants to block some jurors from participating in the trial. Racialized defendants frequently used them to diversify juries and decrease racial bias. This tool is necessary because juries in Canada tend to be overwhelmingly white and there are very few protections for jury diversity. Black and Indigenous people are overrepresented as accused, yet underrepresented on juries.

By abolishing peremptory challenges, it became harder for defendants to receive a fair and impartial trial.

We recently spoke with our pro bono lawyer on the case, Joshua Sealy-Harrington, about what’s at stake in the case, and why... jury diversity matters. Watch him explain in the video below:

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not rule in our favour. It held that the law abolishing peremptory challenges was constitutional.

But our fight to address the systemic harms of criminalization and policing does not end there.

Transforming policing requires a thorough re-thinking of our entire criminal legal system and structures of criminalization. This is a system, as Joshua notes, which is “replete with systemic racism.”

We are fighting for change in many different realms: we are demanding the decriminalization of drug use and sex work, challenging a broken RCMP complaints systems, advocating for democratic and civilian police governance, and confronting systemic racism in policing.

The BCCLA is pushing back on policing powers in many realms because we know police have too much power and too little accountability. We need to hold them accountable and demand change.

We hope you’ll stand alongside us in the fight for change and accountability.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing what we can do together to fight for a different future.

Join us in re-imagining what’s possible.

With hope,

Jessica Magonet (she/her)
Staff Lawyer (Litigation)

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