New Key Guidance for Resumption of Criminal Jury Trials

From: Department of Justice Canada

Holding criminal jury trials is one of greatest challenges facing our criminal courts as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 19, the Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 held its fourth virtual meeting, focusing on this very issue and approving guidance documents.

Today, the Action Committee is releasing approved national-level guidance documents on all phases of the jury trial process. The goal is to support immediate planning for the resumption of criminal jury trials. The documents include tip sheets on:

  • the jury summons and jury selection processes;
  • in-trial jury processes;
  • the sequestering, deliberation and release of the jury;
  • juror arrival and departure; and
  • general practices for cleaning and sanitation.

To accompany the specific tip sheets, the Action Committee is also publishing an overview of the criminal jury process.

As emphasized in today’s Message from the Action Committee, it is critical that all those who come to Canada’s courts have confidence that appropriate measures are being taken to protect their health and safety. The jury-related guidance documents released today were developed with input from senior federal and provincial officials, and with public health and occupational health and safety experts with this key objective in mind. This guidance will inform the planning and concerted efforts of chief justices, judges, and courts administrators across the country to restore in-courthouse operations.

Quotes

“The impact of the pandemic is unprecedented, and the challenge is particularly acute in the context of criminal jury trials. We have a duty to ensure that all courts can continue to deliver justice to Canadians. Today’s guidance is a step in the right direction.”

The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C.

Chief Justice of Canada and Chairperson, Canadian Judicial Council

“I am pleased with the progress of the Action Committee, including its positive collaboration with health and safety, judicial, and governmental stakeholders to develop this guidance on the recommencement of jury trials. Judges and courts administrators alike are grappling with this difficult issue and searching for resolutions that will allow for this fundamental aspect of criminal justice to go forward in ways that are grounded in current public health advice.”

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Quick facts

  • The Action Committee is co-chaired by Chief Justice Wagner and Minister Lametti, and includes the following members:

    • Hon. Geoffrey Morawetz, Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice
    • Hon. Mary Moreau, Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
    • Hon. Terry Matchett, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta and Past Chair of the Canadian Council of Chief Judges
    • Hon. David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia
    • Nathalie G. Drouin, Ad. E., Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada
    • Tina Namiesniowski, President of the Public Health Agency of Canada
    • Renée Thériault, Executive Legal Officer, Supreme Court of Canada (member ex officio)
  • Guidance documents prepared by the Action Committee help support appropriate provincial and judicial decision-makers with the best available information that can be adapted to the individual circumstances of their courts.

  • The Action Committee’s work respects the responsibility of provinces and territories for the administration of justice in their jurisdictions and upholds the principle of judicial administrative independence, while advancing Canadians’ common interest in an accessible and safe justice system.

/Public Release. View in full here.