An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors)

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Michael Cooper  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Second reading (Senate), as of April 30, 2019
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that the prohibition against the disclosure of information relating to jury proceedings does not, in certain circumstances, apply in respect of disclosure by jurors to health care professionals.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2019 / 1:30 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

moved that Bill C-417, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and speak at third reading stage of my private member's bill, Bill C-417.

This is a bill that arises from a key recommendation of a unanimous report by the justice committee respecting juror support. It is a study that was initiated thanks to the leadership of the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford.

During the course of that study, we heard from former jurors whose lives had forever been changed as a result of doing nothing more than their civic duty. Former jurors who sat through horrific evidence in gruesome trials had, as a result, suffered from mental health issues, including PTSD. I want to thank those jurors who came before us for having the courage to do so, because it was not easy to do, including Mark Farrant, Daniel Cozine, Michaela Swan, Patrick Fleming, Tina Daenzer and Scott Glew.

One thing these jurors said is an impediment to getting the mental health support they require is the jury secrecy rule. The jury secrecy rule makes it a Criminal Code offence, pursuant to section 649, to disclose any aspect of the jury deliberation process for life, even to a mental health professional. It begs the question: How is it possible for former jurors to get the therapeutic or counselling support they require when they are unable to have a free exchange with a medical health professional about what is one of, if not the most, stressful aspects of jury service, if they are to be silenced from being able to speak to a medical health professional about the core of their injury?

This is precisely what Bill C-417 seeks to change by carving out an narrow exception to the jury secrecy rule so that former jurors who are suffering from mental health issues arising from jury service can speak to a mental health professional about all aspects of their jury service. It is a bill that will protect the integrity of the jury secrecy rule, because, again, it will be in a strictly confidential context post-trial, while allowing for that vital exchange between a former juror and a medical health practitioner so that they can get the help they need and the help they deserve.

I have thought long and hard about there being any argument against this bill, and I really cannot think of an argument. It is why, when the justice committee studied this, every witness who appeared, from the mental health community to former jurors to the legal community, endorsed this change. It is why it was a key, unanimous recommendation of the justice committee's juror support study. It is why, when my bill was introduced at second reading, it passed unanimously in the House. It is why, when it went to the justice committee for further study, it passed unanimously, subject to some minor technical amendments.

If there ever was an amendment to the Criminal Code that everyone could agree on, it is surely this change. Therefore, what is needed now is to make sure that we can get this across the finish line and that we can get it passed. The time for debate, really, is over. What we need to do today is allow this bill to go forward and get it over to the Senate so that it has a fighting chance of being passed before the expiration of this Parliament. I implore my colleagues to join me this afternoon in seeing that happen.

There are many members from all sides of the House that I would like to thank, but I would like to specifically acknowledge the leadership of our chair, the member for Mount Royal, who has been tireless in his efforts to see this bill advance.

Let us come together, let us get this over to the Senate and let us get Bill C-417 passed before the end of this Parliament.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-417. I want to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their study on the bill and the hard work they did to advance discussions and debate on the issue of juror mental health.

I support the amendments made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and I urge all hon. members to do the same. Before I address the amendments made to the bill, I would like to talk about the bill itself and about the purpose of section 649 of the Criminal Code and the way it compares to offences in other countries.

The underlying objective of this bill is no doubt a laudable one, as it proposes a Criminal Code amendment that seeks to help jurors who face mental health challenges following jury duty. It proposes to do so by amending section 649 of the Criminal Code, which has been identified as posing an impediment for jurors needing mental health support after the completion of a jury trial. Like other members of this House, I believe that it is important for jurors to get the support they need in the aftermath of their jury service.

Specifically, the amendment proposed in Bill C-417 would permit jurors to discuss jury deliberations with health care professionals after the trial in order to address health issues that have arisen as a result of their jury duties. It would do so by adding an exception to the offence of disclosure of jury proceedings under section 649 of the Criminal Code.

As has been mentioned by the sponsor and other members of this House, the proposal seeks to implement a unanimous recommendation of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' May 2018 report entitled “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada”.

With few exceptions, section 649 prohibits jurors from disclosing any information relating to jury deliberations or other information not shared in open court. The prohibition in section 649 applies to matters intrinsic to the jury deliberation process, such as the opinions, thoughts, statements, arguments and votes of individual jurors. It also applies, for example, to the slightest comment between jurors while walking out of the courtroom or while exiting the courthouse.

The purpose of the prohibition is to promote free and frank debate in the jury room and allow for an independent and effective jury free from the pressures of public scrutiny or fear of reprisal. It also supports the finality of verdicts and public confidence in the administration of justice.

Jurors may discuss evidence or other information disclosed in the courtroom, since such information is publicly available. What this means, for example, is that there is currently no legal impediment if a juror wishes to seek mental health support in relation to a gruesome video or photograph presented as evidence in court.

Indeed, as was mentioned in earlier debates, many provinces and territories—Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon—offer juror support programs that tackle the mental health consequences of this aspect of jury duty.

Section 649 targets out-of-court discussions about jury deliberations and makes it a summary conviction offence to disclose such information.

The offence applies to every juror and every person providing support services to a juror with a physical disability.

It may also interest members of the House to know that some provincial and territorial legislation, applying to both criminal and civil jury proceedings, establish an offence that seeks to address a similar issue as that in section 649. For example, Yukon’s Jury Act prohibits any person who was a member of the jury from disclosing or discussing in any manner the nature or content of jury discussions.

In testimony provided to the justice committee during its study on jurors, Ms. Tina Daenzer, who had been a juror for the Paul Bernardo trial in the 1990s, described that part of the trauma of serving on a jury came from what jurors were not allowed to discuss.

More recent, Mr. Mark Farrant told the justice committee during its study of Bill C-417 that after he had served on a jury in a murder trial, many mental health professionals were unwilling to take him on as a client at all because of perceived legal conflicts due to the jury secrecy rule, which I was describing. Even though jurors are able to talk about whatever becomes part of the court record, including horrific and traumatic evidence, jury secrecy still operates as a barrier to some jurors in accessing mental health care for their own trauma. Bill C-417 would change that, which makes this such an important bill.

Internationally, a similar rule prohibiting the disclosure of jury deliberations is found in the United Kingdom and in various states in Australia. The justice committee's report takes note of legislation in the Australian state of Victoria, which includes an exception that permits a former juror to disclose information related to deliberations to a registered medical practitioner or a registered psychologist while being treated in relation to issues arising out of their service.

In the United States, once a trial is over, jurors are generally free to discuss the events of the trial and jury deliberations, unless a specific court order bars them from doing so. What that means is that jurors in the United States can talk with nearly anyone about juror deliberations, including a talk show host on national television or across the Internet. This approach, which offers limited protection for juror privacy, is significantly different from the Canadian model.

I think we would all agree that Canadian citizens may be reluctant to serve on juries if it is contemplated that their deliberations would be made public or if they may be subjected to probing and intrusive questioning about discussions and opinions expressed during deliberations. It thus remains critical to ensure the privacy, safety and security of jurors who perform the invaluable civic duty of serving on a jury.

Against this backdrop, I would like to turn my attention to the substance of Bill C-417 and why, as I have already mentioned, the government supports the bill with the amendments that were adopted at committee. The amendments have added clarity to the proposed change to section 649 and they are consistent with what the bill seeks to achieve. One of the amendments was discussed earlier. It is about specifying who is a health care professional by clarifying that it must be a professional who is regulated or licensed in the province or territory, similar to what is found in the Australian example. The impact of this amendment is that it would provide for greater clarity that jurors could only disclose information to a member of a regulated health profession with governing rules of conduct and codes of ethics, including duties of confidentiality.

Such a change is consistent with ensuring that the integrity of the jury secrecy rule is maintained, notwithstanding the new exception to section 649 that is being proposed.

The other amendment is relatively minor, addressing a discrepancy in the language versions of the bill.

Finally, the justice committee agreed on an amendment to the bill to provide for a coming into force date of 90 days after royal assent, to give the provinces and territories time to prepare for the implementation of the change in the law. As the sponsor of the bill noted at committee, the purpose of the amendment is to give provinces and territories the time to get up to speed with the change.

The justice committee's amendments strengthen this bill, responding to the issues raised before the committee. As such, the government will be accepting the committee's recommendation to adopt this bill, as amended, at third reading.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2019 / 1:45 p.m.
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Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to express my support for Bill C-417. I will be brief, because I know everyone wants to see this bill sent to the other place as quickly as possible.

This is a truly common-sense measure, as recognized by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which recommended that the government bring in such an exception for jurors so that they can access mental health services. In many cases, jurors go through traumatic experiences as a result of difficult deliberations. It can be really tough to be part of a jury, to reach a consensus and a final decision, and to come through all that without any lasting effects, any remorse or anything weighing on one's conscience. Offering this support is crucial. Existing legislation prevents jurors from accessing such services and disclosing information relating to jury deliberations, which of course are secret.

It makes sense to let jurors talk to health care professionals who, in any case, are bound by patient confidentiality and cannot disclose anything they hear during their appointments. That would reassure everyone with regard to the importance of the confidentiality of jury deliberations.

It goes without saying that we support such an initiative and that we are asking the other chamber to pass this quickly. It is clear that the senators do not seem to be in any rush on other files, which is unfortunate, because they have in their hands a number of other bills that had the unanimous support of the House. It seems that this bill will also have unanimous support, so we hope that the Senate will study and pass it quickly.

I do not want to take up any more time, because I know that there is not much time left before the end of this 42nd Parliament. I sincerely hope that my colleagues will be brief and that we can move this common-sense bill forward to help those who are having a difficult time dealing with their role and their obligations as jurors.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2019 / 1:50 p.m.
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Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-417 and also to state that I am in full support of the bill.

As we know, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has studied this proposed legislation and has reported it back with three amendments. In my view, the amendments to Bill C-417 that were made by the justice committee have improved the drafting of this legislation and will ensure that it will better achieve its stated objective. I encourage all hon. members to support these amendments as soon as possible so that it can go to the other place and be tabled in second reading.

Along with other members of this House, I applaud the small but important change proposed in Bill C-417, which would facilitate better access to mental health support for jurors. As a person who has dealt with mental health issues, I totally understand the need for jurors to be able to have access to professional services so that they can share their story and gain the support that they need.

It became clear through the justice committee's study on counselling and other mental health supports for jurors, which culminated in its May 22, 2018, report, called “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada”, that section 649 of the Criminal Code has been an impediment to jurors seeking support following their service. I appreciate that this bill addresses the serious issue of mental health as it relates to individuals who participate in the criminal justice system.

Our consideration of this bill has been informed by the justice committee's report, which documents the evidence and perspectives of witnesses regarding the impact of the criminal justice system on jurors. As my colleague across the aisle mentioned, a number of former jurors who served on difficult and disturbing criminal jury trials provided testimony before the committee that has highlighted the importance of ensuring that jurors are not left without any means to address the stresses and trauma they may experience as a result of their important civic duty.

In addition, the justice committee heard from a variety of experts, including criminal justice professionals, academics, government representatives of juror support programs, and mental health and lawyers' associations. These experts expressed a common view that the stresses associated with jury service can be prevented or reduced by better preparing jurors, improving the conditions under which they carry out their duty and offering psychological support.

The 11 recommendations made in the report touch upon these issues, including recommendation 4, which calls for an amendment to section 649 of the Criminal Code. Bill C-417 addresses this recommendation, which if implemented will contribute to better psychological support for jurors.

I believe that jurors would continue to feel confident that discussions taking place among them and in the jury room would continue to remain private so that they would be able to continue to engage in full and frank discussions despite the change in the law, yet be able to receive the services they needed once they felt those services were necessary.

As said, we in the government support the objectives of the bill, and that is why our government seeks certain targeted amendments. Those amendments have been identified.

There are three specific amendments. The first one specifically deals with ensuring the health care professional is licensed, as my colleague across the aisle mentioned. The second amendment is a minor amendment making sure that the English and French versions are in sync. The third amendment is basically looking for 90 days after the bill receives royal assent to ensure that all the necessary preparation is carried out for its effective implementation.

I believe that this bill, with the amendments adopted at the committee, strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the privacy interests of jurors and ensuring that jurors can access effective mental health treatment following their service, should they need it.

As I said at the outset, I support Bill C-417 and the amendments adopted by the justice committee, which will ensure it better achieves its objectives. I also believe that this bill aligns with other government initiatives, such as Bill C-75, to improve the juror regime in Canada. I will be voting in favour of this bill.

I thank my colleague for his advocacy for mental health and the great work he is doing. As I have said, I will be voting in favour at third reading of this bill.

As I am the last speaker from this side before the House rises for the next two weeks, I would like to wish all my colleagues and all Canadians a happy Easter.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2019 / 6:30 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-417 standing in the name of the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, an individual I had the pleasure of working with on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The bill has risen out of a long process involving great work on that standing committee.

Before I get into the details of that, I want to go back to May 2017, when I had the honour of participating in a press conference with the member for Victoria and two jurors, Mr. Patrick Fleming and Mr. Mark Farrant. It was at that point, when I was serving as our party's justice critic, that I became aware, because I do not think many people were aware at the time, of the strains and stresses that were involved with one of the most honourable services a person could give to his or her country; that is to serve as a juror, as a judge of one's peers, in a fair, open and honest trial setting. What I learned at that time shocked me. It was not only that jurors went through these stresses, but it was that there were little to no supports to look after them when they had finished this very honourable duty on behalf of their community.

In my capacity at the time as the justice critic and also as the second vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, in June 2017, I asked if the committee could devote its very precious time to studying this matter. I am very thankful to all my Liberal and Conservative colleagues who unanimously agreed with me on my motion to study.

As a lone New Democrat on a committee, it is not very often that we get to see our motions passed and actually acted upon. Therefore, I have to commend my colleagues, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton; the member for Niagara Falls; our great chair, the member for Mount Royal; and, indeed, all of my colleagues on that committee who saw real value in this study and honoured me and, most important, the jurors, with committing to this study.

I very much enjoyed my time on that committee, serving as the justice critic. Especially for someone who does not have any formal legal training, it required a lot of effort on my part to bring myself up to speed. Even though I am now the agriculture critic and have gone on to greener pastures, I will still remember my time on that committee.

One of my proudest times in this Parliament is to have my name associated with this study, because its recommendations reflect a gap that exists in our justice system.

It was very difficult to listen to the testimony we heard at that committee. We had witnesses who had been jurors on the Paul Bernardo trial. We also had Mr. Farrant and Mr. Fleming.

Jurors are basically dragooned into service. They are taken out of their ordinary lives and pressed into service, almost cut off from their friends and family, not able or allowed to discuss any of the proceedings with members of the public or those they are closest to. They have to do this duty with little or no thanks, little family support and also very low pay. It is indeed very much a patchwork quilt across the country. Some jurors were earning about $40 or $50 a day for this service.

In order for a jury to render a verdict, it must be exposed to all of the evidence of some of the most horrible crimes that have ever been committed in the country. I am talking about coroner's reports, pictures of the crime scene, audio recordings and video recordings. How can we for one second imagine that someone would go through that experience and not be affected by it in some way? At the end of their service, jurors were essentially given a handshake, a pat on the back and shown the rear door of the building with a “Thank you for your service”.

I can imagine myself, as a father of three children. If I had gone through that experience, would I be able to just pick up where I had left off to resume a normal life? The answer is no. We cannot expect someone to go through that experience, to witness that kind of imagery, to hear those kind of recordings and simply go back to a normal life.

That is where the gap exists. That testimony was difficult to listen to, but it was important to listen to. All members of that committee assured our witnesses that their words would not be in vain, that we were going to commit to some action in a unanimous and collaborative way. I am proud to see that all members from all parties committed to that work and collaboration.

The result of that testimony was, in what I consider to be one of the finest works of this 42nd Parliament, the report on “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada”. I will draw the attention of members to recommendation 4 of that report, which recommended:

That the Government of Canada amend section 649 of the Criminal Code so that jurors are permitted to discuss jury deliberations with designated mental health professionals once the trial is over.

This is important, because we know from our increased understanding of mental health issues, of post-traumatic stress disorder, that we cannot tackle this problem by simply sweeping it under the rug. We have testimony from the Canadian Armed Forces and from our first responders. We know that the key to addressing post-traumatic stress disorder and the mental health issues that arise from it is to treat it early with professional help. Why should jurors be excluded from that very same help we freely give to our first responders and our Canadian Armed Forces?

This brings me to the member for St. Albert—Edmonton and his Bill C-417.

Bill C-417 is a direct result of our committee's hard work. The bill would amend section 649 of the Criminal Code to allow for jurors to freely and openly discuss what they witnessed with a registered and dedicated health professional who, by the very nature of the job, would be sworn to secrecy in any case and committed to keeping those conversations secret.

Other jurisdictions have implemented this kind of change with great success. I look at the Australian state of Victoria. It has recognized the problem, has acted on it and has had some great success.

As a part of that committee's report, the government was asked for a response. The former minister of justice indicated in her response:

I am committed to examining jury-related issues, including section 649 of the Criminal Code, with provincial and territorial colleagues as part of my ongoing review of the criminal justice system, which would apply a Gender-based Analysis Plus approach to identify potential differential impacts.

I am proud to be a joint seconder of this bill to show the cross-partisan support for the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. The first seconder of the bill is the member for Victoria. The member for Mount Royal is there as well. This was a unanimous recommendation.

It is my sincere hope that members of the House, given the fact that we are running out of time in this 42nd Parliament, will see the intent behind this legislation and its merits and will honour the incredibly hard work and powerful testimony that was received at committee. I hope they will find it in their hearts to unanimously support the bill and send it to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I would like to commend my Conservative colleague for his work. I am proud to be seconding the bill. I hope we can do honour to those who serve in our justice system.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2019 / 6:40 p.m.
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Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-417, an act to amend the Criminal Code section 649, which has been brought forward by my colleague, the Conservative member for St. Albert—Edmonton. I have had the honour of knowing the hon. member for over 10 years and I am very aware of his experience and his encyclopaedic knowledge of statutory law. Any bill brought forward by him amending the Criminal Code clearly says to me that this is a required change and that I can be confident in supporting it.

The member is very passionate about justice issues, but even more so about protecting the victims of crime. Jury duty is something most of us will never experience. Many of us will be contacted through the selection process but few are actually chosen. These Canadians who are chosen and perform their civic duty are often exposed to the horrific details of crimes without the benefit of being mentally prepared for the experience.

They are silent observers who must, for the benefit of a fair trial, expose themselves to images, testimony and unbelievable details to ensure that they are considering all the evidence before making their decision. They do not have the ability to change the channel, leave the room or simply avoid the experience. They are compelled to go through with their service from beginning to end.

Many, after seeing and hearing the unimaginable, have to gather as a group to discuss everything in detail, again and again, and then to come up with their decision for a verdict. As we can imagine, this can leave a normally healthy person with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and those who are predisposed to mental health issues are often even worse off.

An increasingly growing awareness about PTSD in society has really opened up our eyes to the effect it has had on people, their families and those around them. That is a good thing. We suggest those with PTSD get professional help to address their problems, but this is not always possible, especially for those who are suffering because of their jury duty. In Canada, it is illegal to discuss one's jury deliberation experience with anyone. This, on the surface, is perhaps a good policy to ensure our court system does not degenerate into a genre of tell-all books by those on juries.

However, this makes it almost impossible for those with jury duty PTSD to seek professional help because they simply cannot talk about what is causing their health problems. Imagine a person being sick and being told to see a doctor, but not to discuss anything that has to do with how he or she became sick or what that person is experiencing. That is basically the reality here. Bill C-417 seeks to create an exemption for those affected by their jury duty to be able to discuss what they need to with their health professional. Of course, those deliberations would be protected by patient confidentiality.

To do this, Bill C-417 is proposing section 649 of the Criminal Code be amended to allow former jurors to discuss their deliberations with designated health professionals once the trial is over. This, in fact, is also a unanimous recommendation of the justice committee of the House. Our colleagues have examined this issue in detail and this is their recommendation. Now it is up to us here to make the necessary legislative changes.

lt is also worth noting that this concept has come to fruition in Australia already. ln the time since, it has shown to work without any problems. Now it is Canada's time to implement these changes. If we say we support victims of crime, we have to allow them to access the help that they need.

Major players in our justice system have also spoken in favour of this change, including the Criminal Lawyers' Association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Given that all parties have supported this idea up to this point, I expect that to continue. I just hope we can get through this legislative process before the writ is dropped.

I was quite moved when I read the testimony given in committee by former jurors. They spoke to the challenges they faced after their jury duty. I was particularly struck by the way their experience left them in a position where everyday things became a source of stress and anxiety.

Many of those on jury duty who witness testimony and evidence of serious crimes speak of the lasting and permanent impairment of their emotional well-being. It is really quite unimaginable.

Much of court testimony is already made public through the media and can be discussed. However, in a study done by Dr. Sonia Chopra, 70% of jurors said that their stress occurred as a result of the deliberations. That is the part of jury duty they cannot talk about. During deliberations, they face the stress of rehashing facts, testimony and the interpretations thereof. They have the stress of knowing that victims are expecting a certain result, but also the stress of knowing that they must be ready to deny them if the facts do not support a guilty verdict. They hold the life of the accused in the balance and the stress of not wanting to make a mistake. It can be overwhelming. Are they about to condemn an innocent person? Are they about to set a mass murderer free? Will they make the right decision?

This bill, while a great idea, does not mention some of the other aspects of this issue that tend to bother me greatly, especially as a member of the health committee. As a society, we pay for mental health services for incarcerated prisoners in this country. However, we do not pay for the same services for innocent jurors. As a society, we need to think about that. Are we comfortable with this arrangement? I certainly am not.

Even if we were to agree to pay for mental health services for jurors, we do not currently have the capacity to provide that service here in Canada. Over and over again, we hear at health committee how Canada is challenged to provide mental health services in all regions of this country. It is my hope that if we create the opportunity for jurors to seek mental health support, the provinces will prioritize their work to set up the proper support system for them.

Part of this progress, I expect, will be spurred by the work of the member for Cariboo—Prince George and his tireless efforts to create a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder. His work to pass Bill C-211, his private member's bill, will be instrumental in his process, I anticipate.

Bill C-211 was supported by all parties in this House, and it demonstrates our shared will to address PTSD here in Canada, no matter who is affected or why. It is my hope that Bill C-211 will allow for the creation of a standard of diagnosis, care, treatment and even terminology for PTSD that will be consistent from one end of our nation to another.

Improving mental health services in Canada is a shared responsibility. All parties have studied the issue. All parties agree that more needs to be done. Now we just need to do it. We need to insist that some provinces up their game to ensure better consistency and availability of mental health services.

I am not naive, and I know that there will always be unreasonable calls for improvements to mental health services, but so far, I have not heard one person say that he or she thinks we here in Canada are doing a great job.

Investing in mental health is an investment. By providing help to those who need it, we can allow people to live normal lives, hold employment, pay taxes, raise good families and participate in the community. Ignoring their needs costs us greatly, both in terms of money and as a society.

I applaud my Conservative colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for bringing this sensible proposal forward. I applaud the justice committee for studying this serious issue. It will be an honour for me to support this bill. I ask that my colleagues in all parties do the same.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2019 / 6:50 p.m.
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Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-417 today. I congratulate my colleague on the justice committee, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, for bringing forward this bill.

During our study in committee on counselling and other mental health supports for jurors, we heard first-hand from jurors about the trauma they experienced from their participation in jury duty. In fact, our committee released a unanimous report in May that highlighted the necessity of the legislation we are now debating.

During the first hour of debate on Bill C-417, we heard from two other members of the justice committee, the member for Mount Royal and the member for Victoria, who both spoke of the need for this legislation. In fact, I would ask all members in this House to support this important legislation.

This bill would amend section 649 of the Criminal Code. It would add an exception to the offence of disclosure of jury proceedings so that it would not apply where disclosure was made for the purpose of receiving medical or psychiatric treatment, therapy or counselling from a health care professional following the trial.

The government has consistently made efforts to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair, efficient and equitable for all Canadians. I think the bill would benefit from some amendments that would further its objective and improve its drafting. I note that the bill's proposed amendment to section 649 would benefit from greater clarity in terms of what was meant by “health care professional” to ensure that information being disclosed by a juror was made to a professional who was regulated and bound by the duties of confidentiality so as not to undermine the integrity of the jury secrecy rule. Moreover, as currently drafted, the English and French versions of this bill could be viewed as inconsistent. This could result in the English version being interpreted more narrowly with regard to the types of health care professionals and services covered by the exception. For example, it could exclude psychologists.

In addition, an amendment to provide for a coming into force period, such as 90 days after the day the bill received royal assent, would allow the provinces and territories some time to effectively implement the change to section 649. I believe that these amendments would be consistent with the bill's objective and would enhance its drafting.

As we debate and examine this bill, it is important to be mindful of the way in which juries contribute to justice in Canada and play an important role in upholding our Constitution. Subsection 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right to a jury trial for offences carrying a maximum penalty of imprisonment of five years or more. Under the Criminal Code, certain offences, such as murder, provide for the presumption that the accused will be tried by a judge and jury. For other offences, such as sexual assault or robbery, an accused can elect to be tried by judge alone or by judge and jury.

In R. v. Davey, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada held that “the jury reflects the common sense, the values, and the conscience of the community.” In R. v. Sherratt, 1991, the jury was also described by the court as an “excellent fact finder” and a “final bulwark against oppressive laws or their enforcement” that increases societal trust in the justice system.

While jury service is an important civic duty in Canada, we know from our committee's study on juror support and its report, “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada”, that it can be both challenging and stressful for jurors. Jurors may be exposed to graphic evidence and disturbing testimony.

Throughout our committee's study, witnesses provided testimony on the significant impact jury service could have on jurors' personal lives. Some jurors indicated that following the trial, they had difficulty caring for their children and maintaining relationships. Some even reported experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder following the performance of their duties. Witnesses also identified other sources of stress that accompanied jury duty, such as financial strain, contentious deliberations and the pressure to reach a verdict.

I agree with the statement made by one witness and former juror who was selected for the Paul Bernardo trial, Ms. Tina Daenzer. She said, “Our right to trial by jury depends on the willingness of all citizens to serve, but doing so should not be at the expense of a juror’s own mental health.” It is certainly a concern that the negative experiences of some jurors may lead others to avoid jury duty, which poses challenges for courts that already struggle to obtain sufficiently large and diverse jury pools.

I recognize that the member for St. Albert—Edmonton has noted the work of the committee as providing the basis for his legislation and as such, I would like to use some of my time today to discuss the committee's work, as well as the recommendations made in its report.

The committee's report makes 11 unanimous recommendations. Seven of the recommendations fall within provincial-territorial responsibility, including, for example, increasing the compensation jurors receive for jury duty in order to reduce the financial stress that can occur for some when serving as a juror. The report also recommends that information packages be provided to prospective jurors and that jurors be offered debriefing sessions and psychological support after the trial. Moreover, the report recommends supporting training for justice system professionals on the impact of legal proceedings on jurors' mental health.

The government's response to the report was tabled on July 18, 2018. It details the government's commitment to raising the report and its recommendations with the provinces and territories and to encouraging discussions on ways in which jurors can be better supported across the country. I understand that this has been done and that federal, provincial and territorial officials continue to engage on jury-related issues. The government's response also sets out its commitment to explore funding and to examine section 649 with provincial and territorial partners. Our committee's recommendations have rightly recognized the important role that the provinces and territories play in this area.

With respect to matters within federal jurisdiction, federal responsibility over the criminal law includes procedure in criminal matters. Part XX of the Criminal Code sets out the procedural rules regulating jury trials and jury selection, as well as the offence of disclosing information relating to jury proceedings in section 649. Provincial and territorial legislatures enact laws relating to the establishment of juries for civil, criminal and other proceedings such as coroners' inquests. Their legislation also provides the basis for identifying possible jurors from the community, the grounds upon which a person is ineligible for jury membership and juror compensation.

The issue of juror support generally falls within provincial-territorial jurisdiction given their responsibility for the administration of justice. Thus, it is very encouraging that several provinces and territories have established psychological support programs for jurors. This allows jurors to access a certain number of free counselling sessions in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

I strongly believe that supporting jurors is vital for the individual jurors themselves, but also for the legal proceedings in which the jurors are involved and the administration of justice more broadly. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this debate today.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2019 / 6:55 p.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-417, an act to amend section 649 of the Criminal Code. I want to thank my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, for his work on the bill. I want to thank all of my colleagues in the House, from all sides, who have worked tirelessly on this.

I also want to thank someone who has become a good friend of mine. He has been very passionate about this. I first met him in the fall of 2016 after tabling my bill, Bill C-211, with respect to a national framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, and that is Mark Farrant.

Mark Farrant has been a tireless advocate. As I said earlier on, when he first brought this issue to me, I was talking with reporters regarding my bill and those who were included in it. I was ashamed at the time that I did not include jurors.

We trust that when people sign up to do their civic duty, they do their duty and not a lot is said afterwards. Why? It is because they are sworn to secrecy. They are not allowed to talk about the horrific images, videos and testimony they hear.

I also want to say thank you to the 12 angry jurors who wrote letters to the Minister of Justice, early on, which were tabled in April 2017, I believe.

They wrote such things as, “In 1995, I was selected as juror number one for the murder trial of Paul Bernardo. Lasting four months, the jury watched videos of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French being raped and tortured for weeks on end. Each day I would go home in a daze, barely able to comprehend the things I saw. Burned in my memory, even at night the videos would replay in my head and I couldn't make it stop.” That person would not be able to share that with anyone else.

Here is another one: “There's not a day that passes that the thoughts don't come back, the details, the autopsy pictures of bullet holes in human heads, forensic photos, the pools of blood.” That juror was on the jury for the Pan murder trial.

Another juror wrote, “It is a different world being part of a murder trial. It takes you to places you can't even imagine and don't want to go. It isn't how I live. To live life through the eyes of a murderer can be very difficult to witness. This is why counselling is necessary for jurors.”

Finally, another juror wrote, “The trial itself was two and a half months in length, and the visuals of the kidnapping and gruesome account of what took place from beginning to end of her horrifying demise have not impacted only myself but also had an impact on my family. I will never be a juror again, nor will my friends or my family, as they watched in pain at what I was and still am going through. I am not the only juror on the trial that sat through this and is suffering from PTSD. There are three that I know of. It is an abomination that doing our civic duty would lead to our lives being changed forever and creating a living hell for our family. Why are the courts not taking care of us when we are trying to take care of society by doing our civic duty?”

That is a great question.

I have deviated from my speech because these letters are the catalyst for why we are here today. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark Farrant and the 11 other jurors who had the courage to come forward. They had the courage to put their faith in all of us in this chamber, believing that we would take this seriously. For that, again, I want to offer a huge thank you to my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for putting forth this bill, which amends section 649 of the Criminal Code.

PTSD is the mental health injury that people encounter when they see or experience traumatic events. It could come from images. It could come from videos. It could come from a car accident. It could come from any terrible accident. We are only now just beginning to understand what post-traumatic stress disorder means.

We used to think when we saw some of our soldiers come back from war or some of our first responders sit in a corner and be dissociative that they were shell-shocked, that they were different. Now we know that it is post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health injury. We also know now that PTSD can impact those who are subject to rape or sexual abuse.

These people are just doing their civic duty, but over the course of two weeks or two months—or 10 months, as we are hearing—images are burned into their minds. Then, at the end of the trial, we turn them loose to walk out the front doors of the courthouse, never to speak of it again, and until this bill comes forward, they are not even allowed to share it with their doctors.

Mark Farrant shared that there were many physicians who were not even willing to listen to him for fear of a patient-doctor violation. He was having these issues and was not able to share exactly what was going through his mind.

We know through the course of this study that our jurors face not just mental health injury or mental illness because of the experience they go through, but also the financial crisis that has been put in place. One juror wrote that it had impacted her family so acutely that even her own son had attempted suicide, all because of the mental health injury that she faced during the course of her civic duty.

Obviously, members have heard the speeches down the way, and I think that this bill is timely. I am very proud of all of us and the work that we do here. I am proud that on June 21 of last year we managed to pass my bill, Bill C-211, which received royal assent and has now become law. We are now the first country in the world to have adopted national legislation to tackle post-traumatic stress disorder. It is my hope that the House could see its way forward to pass my other bill, Bill C-425, which would recognize June 27 as national PTSD awareness day. It would bring us in line with what our counterparts in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. are doing.

However, the bill before us today, Bill C-417, is much needed and long overdue. It might be too late for those who have already served, but at the very least, as we move forward, we can be sure that if people sign up for civic duty and become jurors on a case, they will have the support they need and require once the court case is done.

This bill is overdue, and I applaud all of us in the House and the health committee for its work on it. As it was so aptly put by our friend for Calgary Confederation, when our colleague for St. Albert—Edmonton brings something forward like this, he has encyclopedic knowledge of our law system and court system.

I also want to make note of a great point that was brought forward. If we can pay for care for the mental injuries and mental health issues that our inmates have, then for sure, 100%, we should look forward to paying for and helping those who do their civic duty.

With that I humbly offer to my colleagues that I wholeheartedly support the bill. It is long overdue and I want to thank those who have brought this issue to the forefront, including Mark Farrant and the 12 angry jurors who brought these letters and showed the courage to speak out.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2019 / 7:10 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to rise to speak in the second hour of debate on my private members' bill, Bill C-417.

Let me say that it is really wonderful to see the cross-party support for this common-sense piece of legislation because this is a totally non-partisan issue. It is about doing what is right. It is about ensuring that those men and women who are suffering as a result of doing nothing more than their civic duty can get the help they need. That is what Bill C-417 is all about.

I want to take this time to thank the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for initiating a very important study around juror supports, which ultimately led to a unanimous report with a key recommendation that Bill C-417 seeks to implement.

I also want to acknowledge the NDP justice critic, the member for Victoria for his tireless advocacy. I was very honoured that he was the named seconder of the bill.

As well, I want to acknowledge many members on the Liberal side, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, the member for Toronto—Danforth and the member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, all of whom stepped up and co-seconded it, in addition to all the members of the justice committee who lent their support, most especially the hon. member for Mount Royal, the chair of our committee, who was tireless in his advocacy and who worked very hard to encourage the government to support the legislation in principle.

Most importantly, I would like to thank those jurors who have had the courage to speak up, including the 12 jurors who wrote letters and the jurors who came before our committee to share their stories and share their experiences, including Daniel Cozine, Michaela Swan, Patrick Fleming, Tina Daenzer, Scott Glew and Mark Farrant. Their stories were heard loud and clear and have made a difference.

Let us work together across party lines to see that this legislation can come into effect before the dissolution of this Parliament.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
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Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

moved that Bill C-417, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-417.

Bill C-417 seeks to amend section 649 of the Criminal Code, which is the jury secrecy rule. The jury secrecy rule prohibits a juror from talking about his or her experiences during jury deliberations for life. My bill would carve out a minor exception to the jury secrecy rule to better help jurors who are suffering from mental health challenges arising from their jury service to get the help they need.

Before I discuss the particulars of the exception proposed in my bill, it would be helpful to provide some context and some background to how I arrived at introducing this bill.

The bill arises from a study at the justice committee, of which I am a member, on juror supports. Indeed, it is the first parliamentary study on juror supports. In that regard, I would like to commend the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for his leadership in taking the initiative to bring about this study. It proved to be a valuable study that resulted in a unanimous committee report, with many important recommendations.

During the study, we heard from many former jurors who went through difficult trials and who were exposed to horrific evidence. We heard about the stress and anxiety that it caused them. We heard about how it impacted their relationships with others, including friends and family. We heard about the challenges they faced upon trying to return to work, upon trying to return to the life that they knew prior to jury service. We heard about the stress and anxiety, and even PTSD, they had suffered as a result of their jury service.

The testimony of these former jurors was extremely powerful. I would like to read into the record some of the testimony of the former jurors.

Mark Farrant, who served as a jury foreman in a particularly gruesome murder trial, said this of his experience:

Images would haunt me day after day, an unrelenting bombardment of horror. My daughter's red finger painting would hurtle me back to the scene of the crime and I would stare transfixed, seemingly out of space and time. Sometimes I would just start to cry for no reason at all. Intimacy with my spouse was impossible, and I found myself either sleeping downstairs on some kind of vigil, or sleeping in my children's rooms at the foot of their doors, if I even slept at all.

I began to see everything as a potential threat, and even began arming myself with knives “just in case”, I would say to myself, as I would take my children to the park to play. My daughter asked me one day why I was putting a knife in my jacket and I struggled to understand, even myself, why I was doing it, let alone to explain it to a three-year-old. I knew something was horribly wrong with me.

Indeed, something was horribly wrong. Mark Farrant was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his jury service.

Tina Daenzer, who more than two decades ago served on the Paul Bernardo jury, said:

At that moment I had no way to fully comprehend how bad it would be. Imagine watching young girls being raped and tortured over and over again. You couldn't close your eyes and you couldn't look away because your duty was to watch the evidence.

Many days I would go home in a fog, as if heavily medicated. I counted on my husband to care for our children and to assume most household responsibilities as I often had difficulty focusing on tasks after a day in court. Most nights the videos would play in my head over and over again. I had difficulty sleeping. Intimacy with my husband became nonexistent for a long time, even after the trial ended. I became afraid to go outside after dark, and to this day that still affects me. I have extreme distrust of strangers.

Then there is Scott Glew, who sat on a jury in a murder trial that involved the murder of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. He said this:

To this day, I worry all the time that something will happen to my kids, that someone in their life will hurt them the way the victim was hurt. I am super vigilant and accused of being way too overprotective, but knowing what I know, I cannot be too careful with who looks after my kids.

That is just a part of what was a lot of testimony, very powerful testimony, of jurors who quite courageously shared their stories, shared their experiences, shared about how their jury service changed their lives forever.

We heard at the justice committee that one of the biggest impediments for jurors to get the help that they needed was the jury secrecy rule.

The jury deliberation process is one of the most stressful aspects of jury service. After all, it is a time when jurors are sequestered with 11 other strangers, sometimes for hours, days or weeks, where they have to go through the evidence methodically, sometimes very disturbing and gruesome evidence, and ultimately decide the fate of an individual. In the most serious of cases that fate may be to put someone away for the rest of his or her life.

In that regard, Tina Daenzer, who served on the Bernardo jury, described this of the jury deliberation process. She stated:

After the Bernardo trial ended, I was only sequestered for one evening, and basically I got the question, “What took you so long?” You can't answer that. You can't discuss what the other people in the room would like to do or not like to do.

Again, you've seen the evidence and you've decided that the person is guilty, are still sending that person to federal prison for the rest of their life. You shouldn't feel guilty, but somewhere deep down you still do. Talking through those things could be quite helpful.

Dr. Sonia Chopra, a psychologist who appeared before the justice committee, has undertaken a fairly extensive study around former jurors. She identified, as a result of her interviewing many former jurors, that seven out of the top 10 stressors for jurors occurred at the time of the verdict and the jury deliberation process leading up to that. In her study, she included some of the comments from jurors about the deliberation process.

One juror said, “The deliberation room, that's where the stress began. The trial was fun.”

Another juror said, “I was just appalled with the jury. If there's a weak link, that's where it was.”

Another said, “Stress wasn't because of the trial; it was because of the other jurors.”

Another said, “Infighting with the jury was my only source of stress.”

Another former juror said, “Deliberations were stressful for me and I'd been holding it in.”

Another said, “After the verdict, I was crying.”

Taken together, it is clear that for it to be a Criminal Code offence to talk about those experiences to a mental health professional is a serious impediment toward jurors getting the help that they need.

That is where this bill comes in. It seeks to make a minor exception to the jury secrecy rule, namely that a juror, in the course of getting mental health treatment arising from their jury service, could share his or her experiences with a mental health professional who is bound to confidentiality post-trial. This is consistent with an important recommendation of our unanimous report.

I want to stress that this minor carve-out is in no way inconsistent with the rationale underlying the jury secrecy rule, including ensuring the finality of a verdict and protecting the sanctity of the jury deliberation process because, again, this exception would only apply post-trial to a mental health professional who is bound by confidentiality.

Therefore, it may come as no surprise that at the committee this received very widespread support from the witnesses, including from former jurors, mental health professionals and lawyers, including William Trudell, the president of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers. This is a non-partisan issue. It is a common-sense issue. It is about doing the right thing to help jurors get the help they need, by making a minor amendment to the Criminal Code.

In the non-partisan spirit of this bill, I am honoured that the member for Victoria, the NDP justice critic, who I have the honour to serve on the justice committee with, is the seconder of my bill. I am very pleased that the member for Mount Royal, who ably serves as the chair of the justice committee and played an important role in the study as chair, is supportive. I see my friend, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, who is a co-seconder, as well as other MPs on all sides of the House.

I am also very honoured that Mark Farrant, who is one of the leading advocates in Canada for juror supports, stood with me here in Ottawa when I announced this bill. Mark Farrant often says that jury service is the last mandatory form of service since the abolition of military conscription. In that regard, it is completely unacceptable that jurors are unable to get the help they need for doing nothing more than their civic duty. That needs to change. Bill C-417 would help change that, and on that basis, I urge the speedy passage of this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 7:25 p.m.
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Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had the honour, on October 29, to second Bill C-417 introduced by my friend and colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton. As he indicated, we worked together, along with the member who spoke earlier, the hon. member for Mount Royal, the chair of the justice and human rights committee. I enjoy working with him there and note that today he spoke with his typical eloquence.

I get many letters from my constituents urging me, when it serves Canadians, to work across party lines to do what Canadians ask us to, which is to make laws that are going to make their lives better. If ever there were an example of that, it is tonight. I am delighted to support this initiative. It is a non-partisan issue. It is what I would call a no-brainer. It is really hard for me to understand how people could resist such an obviously right thing to do.

What would this bill do? It would make it possible for someone to seek mental health assistance if a person has served on a jury and is one of very few people deeply affected or traumatized by that experience. Who could possibly oppose such a measure? Perhaps there are ways the law could be improved through drafting, which is the role of committees to delve into it further, but, in principle, how could one possibly oppose this measure?

Along with my other colleagues, I want to salute the work of my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, who pushed us to do this and produced, as my friend from Niagara Falls pointed out, a unanimous report, which everybody joined hands around. I commend him for doing so. The member for Mount Royal described some of the recommendations that are part of that report, but as he pointed out, many of them are in provincial jurisdiction. The beauty of this very simple and clean amendment to the bill is that it is entirely in federal jurisdiction. It is an amendment to section 649 of the Criminal Code that very narrowly addresses the problem he has described today.

I grew up in a place called St. Catharines, Ontario. That community was traumatized by the Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka trial. To his eternal credit, Mr. Justice Patrick LeSage did something for which he had really no authority: he provided counselling for jurors who were affected by that horrific testimony, videotapes and so forth that changed people's lives. I know that to be true because I know people who were affected by that horrible experience.

The committee heard other people, including Mark Farrant, who both of my colleagues have spoken of, who has become a leader in this initiative. He stood with the hon. member for St. Albert—Edmonton and me at a press conference to tell his story. He is not afraid to tell the story of what happened to him by doing his civic duty.

Both of my colleagues have stressed that one of the few remaining things, if not the only remaining thing, that Canadians can be compelled to do is do their duty on a jury. We depend on them. Our system of criminal justice depends on them and they put their lives, once in a while, in real jeopardy by doing what is required of them.

The thing that also needs to be said is in that criminal courtroom the Crown counsel will, no doubt, have access to effective medical assistance. The judge will as well, because judges have that kind of support. Probably the defence lawyer would as well through the Canadian Bar Association insurance program or the like. People who choose to sit in the courtroom do so voluntarily, but who does not have any support? It is jurors. They get nothing, but they put themselves sometimes at great risk. That is wrong. I will provide some examples of the poignant testimony heard at the justice committee to prove that point. The state of Victoria figured out that it was the right thing to do and fixed it, and Canada should as well.

One juror named Tina Daenzer said, “What I had to watch—those girls being raped and tortured—wasn’t just watching evidence; it was sitting in a box where I felt I couldn’t do anything to save them. It was excruciating for me.”

She goes on to say:

It's been over 22 years. I still have residual effects. If your 85-year-old granny is standing on the side of the road waving me down to help her with her broken-down car, I ain't stopping. I'm not stopping for anybody. I'm distrustful of most strangers. My family life is back to regular, but as a societal person, I'm highly distrustful of people.

That is what jury service did to that Canadian citizen.

Sonia Chopra, a former juror, said this:

I experienced nightmares, recurrent thoughts, loss of sleep, loss of balance, weight loss. Grinding of teeth at night escalated to clenching of teeth during the day, which led to headaches. I had a general feeling of anger all the time, and the feeling of helplessness.

I could go on.

Psychologist Vivien Lee said to our committee that because of stigma, jurors “often do not recognize or seek help until much later, when their difficulties have impacted many aspects of their work and personal lives.”

The point of this legislation is to say that it is okay to go to a health professional, seek counselling and obviously take the steps necessary at a time when it is perhaps easier to make the changes that would make their lives better.

According to the World Health Organization, every dollar we invest in mental health results in about $4 in savings to the Canadian and world community. I think that is applicable in this situation as well.

I want to commend the member for St. Albert—Edmonton for his leadership. I am proud to have served with the people who have spoken and others in this chamber tonight who are on the justice committee, effectively led, as I wish to confirm, by the member for Mount Royal.

I urge all members to support what the member for St. Albert—Edmonton properly called a common sense bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 7:35 p.m.
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Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my colleague, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, for introducing this bill and giving me, as well as so many of my other colleagues, the honour of seconding the bill.

I remember my first time in Parliament, back in 1984, when my colleague Pauline Browes asked if I would second her motion to erect a statue to John Diefenbaker here on Parliament Hill. Needless to say, I was very proud to have that honour, and I am very proud to have this honour. I thank my colleague for that.

This is the first time we have introduced legislation to Parliament to address this critical oversight with respect to jurors in our justice system. I appreciate that my colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton and all those we have heard here are addressing this situation, which up to now has been basically ignored. I was justice minister for six and a half years. I do not remember any reports or memos with respect to the health and well-being of jurors. I am so pleased that we are taking steps, as my colleague, the member for Victoria, just pointed out, on something that makes common sense.

What we can get out of Bill C-417 is the protection members of a jury need. The member has proactively taken this issue that has been ignored for too long. The legislation effectively speaks to section 649 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits jurors from disclosing jury deliberations to anyone, other than in relation to obstruction of justice under subsection 139(2) of the Criminal Code. This new legislation would allow jurors, for the first time in Canada, to seek the help of licensed practitioners, such as psychiatrists and psychologists. I am so pleased to hear of the support.

When we were on the justice committee and heard some of the testimony and evidence, everyone was affected in some way or another. My colleague, the member for St. Catharines, still remembers, as we all do who live in the Niagara Peninsula, the gruesome details of the Bernardo trial. I remember that trial. Indeed, my colleague is correct when he says that the wounds from that trial have not healed. All I can say is thank God that man was not released on parole just recently. As a matter of fact, there are people who are still suffering and are still impacted by that trial. I heard from a constituent who was a friend of Kristen French. She reiterated that the nightmares from that trial live on in her family, friends and jurors.

We had compelling testimony at the justice committee from Mr. Mark Farrant and Mr. Patrick Fleming. Mr. Farrant has been an advocate for jurors and is one of those who has suffered PTSD, in addition to anxiety, depression and nervous shock, due to the distressing and disturbing evidence presented at the trial in which he served as jury foreman. The 2014 trial was that of Farshad Badakhshan, who was convicted of second degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Carina Petrache. She was stabbed multiple times before her body was burned in a fire. Mr. Farrant was subjected to viewing gruesome evidence over and over again. It should be no surprise to anyone that jurors are traumatized by being obliged to sit and watch graphic horrors repeatedly.

Tina Daenzer was another witness we heard from. She was the first one to be selected for the Bernardo trial. She had to listen and see all the terrible evidence introduced at that trial. She wanted to close her eyes and look away, but she could not, because she knew it was her duty to watch the evidence. At one point during the trial, Judge LeSage had to call a recess on her behalf, as she was having severe heart palpitations due to stress. She was referred to counselling. In his 29 years as a judge, Justice LeSage had ordered or recommended counselling for a juror on only two occasions, and the Bernardo trial was one of them. It should be noted as well that he himself sought counselling after that trial ended.

Ms. Daenzer ended her testimony by saying that counselling had helped her manage the trauma and anxiety and to get back to living her life. This speaks to the reason why Bill C-417 is critical to protect our jurors. If we want to continue to have jurors serve and to value their service, we need to ensure that they are provided avenues to reduce their stress, including the opportunity to talk about it and debrief afterward.

Many provinces do have juror support programs such as providing free counselling to former jurors. The bill would increase the effectiveness of those sessions, as it would allow jurors to further discuss the reasons why they had become significantly stressed. Many of our health care professionals who testified at committee supported this change, as they felt it would improve the health of former jurors without compromising the sanctity of our jury system, which medical professionals are bound to by confidentiality requirements.

I thank all the members who have been involved with this, the member for Mount Royal, the member for Victoria and, of course, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, for encouraging and moving forward with this at the justice committee. Because of that report, we are seeing Bill C-417 here today.

It is not without precedent. As members have heard, there are other jurisdictions that are having a look at this issue. In Australia in the State of Victoria they have had similar secrecy rules to Canada's, but its Juries Act 2000 now allows jurors to discuss juror deliberation in the course of their mental health treatment undertaken as a result of their jury service. As justice minister it was always very helpful to see what our colleagues in Australia did. They face many of the same issues we do in Canada. Both countries adhere to the Westminster model of Parliament and are in fact similar in many ways. I always remember when the Prime Minister of Australia was here about 10 years ago and addressing Parliament. He mentioned that Canada and Australia were like identical twins separated at birth. Indeed, having a look at what they do in other countries such as Australia is very helpful for us here in Canada.

One of the things I want to touch on, which I was pleased that my colleague from Mount Royal raised as well, is the lack of remuneration for members of the jury. To ask someone to sit on a jury for two weeks and then not pay them or to pay them $50 a day contributes to the stress these individuals suffer from. As my colleague pointed out, some provinces have not raised this amount since the 1970s. That is absolutely wrong. These people are an essential part of our justice system and they should not have that added stress of not being able to look after their homes. Even employers are stressed because they are losing their employees for perhaps long periods of time. I am hoping that in our discussions with our provincial counterparts to say that time has moved on, that will be one of the areas where we do get these people the kind of financial support they need.

The bill is within the complete jurisdiction of Parliament, and I am so pleased and honoured to be a part of this. Again, I thank all of my colleagues here for all of their wonderful support for this important bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 7:40 p.m.
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Arif Virani Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-417, an act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), initiated by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.

As is readily apparent this evening, the bill proposes to amend the Criminal Code to provide that the prohibition against the disclosure of information relating to jury proceedings does not, in certain circumstances, apply in respect of disclosure by jurors to health care professionals.

Our government indeed recognizes the crucial role in dedicated service of jurors in the Canadian justice system, as stated by a former juror, Mark Farrant, who was indeed quoted by the moving member, the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. Mr. Farrant said in his testimony before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that, “Jurors are an important pillar of the justice system.”

Members heard reference to Mr. Farrant, repeatedly, this evening.

Before November 22 of last year and February 8 of this year, that justice committee undertook a study that culminated in their report, “Improving support for jurors in Canada”, which was rendered in May of this year. The committee held eight meetings in Ottawa to hear evidence from witnesses, including former jurors, Canadian and foreign government representatives who work directly with jurors or in justice departments, Canadian and international lawyers, and other experts interested in the stresses that are associated with jury duty.

Again, those committee deliberations and that committee report have been referred to extensively in the speeches we have heard thus far tonight.

First of all, I want to indicate our thanks to the committee for their thorough study and their important report on this important issue. What I would like to do now is take a moment to explain the jury process in Canada, because understanding the roles that jurors are asked to play is necessary to finding solutions to assist them with the difficulties that can result from their very important public service.

For criminal cases, section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a trigger. What that does is it grants any person charged with an offence the right: the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment.

As provided in section 471 of the Criminal Code:

Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, every accused who is charged with an indictable offence shall be tried by a court composed of a judge and jury.

When a person is charged with a crime listed in section 469 of the Criminal Code, the trial will automatically take place before a judge and jury, unless the person charged with the offence and the Attorney General agree to a trial without a jury.

In all of these types of criminal cases, the jury is called upon to reach a unanimous verdict, determining whether the accused is guilty beyond a standard of what is called “a reasonable doubt” based on the evidence presented by the prosecution.

In the context of civil cases, juries also have a role to play. While most civil cases are heard by a judge alone, a defendant may also have the right to a trial by judge and jury, depending on the nature of the case and the court. Civil juries must decide, on a balance of probabilities, whether the plaintiff proved that the defendant violated civil law. There are six jurors in a civil case and at least five of them are asked to agree upon a civil verdict.

Finally, there is also an aspect of coroners' inquests that is triggered when we discuss jurors. Coroners' inquests, which aim to inform the public of the circumstances of a death, require jurors as well. Jurors must respond to questions about the circumstances of a death and may make non-binding recommendations. Unlike civil or criminal cases, jurors in coroners' inquests are not required to render a verdict on anyone's legal responsibility.

Serving as a juror in any of these capacities that I have just outlined can involve significant stress. We have heard a lot of testimony and a lot of submissions today in this chamber about the stresses the jurors face. Those stresses have the potential to seriously affect a juror's life. What causes stress varies from one person to another, evidently. Several examples were raised by witnesses at committee. I would like to discuss some of these.

For many Canadians, being summoned for jury duty is the first and maybe the only experience they will have with the justice system. As a result, few prospective jurors are knowledgeable about what jury duty entails, and that unfamiliarity with the process itself often generates anxiety. Many individuals may therefore feel overwhelmed and stressed when they are summoned for jury duty.

As expressed by Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty, “...jurors are moving into an environment that is very unfamiliar to them. This can be very intimidating, and that alone can be somewhat stressful.”

Being exposed to disturbing information is also a fundamental aspect of what jurors are faced with. Again, we heard extensively about this this evening.

It goes without saying that some legal proceedings deal with truly horrific and horrible crimes and involve traumatic and explicit evidence and testimony, which can include disturbing audio and video. This can be extremely stressful for jurors who are exposed to it.

We heard this quote earlier, but it bears repeating. Mark Farrant explained:

Images would haunt me day after day, an unrelenting bombardment of horror. My daughter's red finger painting would hurtle me back to the scene of the crime and I would stare transfixed, seemingly out of space and time.

With respect to deliberations, some jurors explained that they were uncomfortable with challenging group dynamics and the confrontations that sometimes occurred between jurors. Therefore, the deliberation process itself can be stress-inducing.

Other individuals spoke about their significant fear of making the wrong decision or rendering a verdict that would have a life-altering impact, fuelling the gravity of the task that was before them.

Former juror Michaela Swan told the Standing Committee on Justice:

...the most difficult process in serving as a juror was that of deliberations and the resulting post-trial discharge...It's confusing and highly complicated, but there is an immense drive to do the right thing.

There is also an abruptness of the end of the trial. Generally, after a verdict is rendered, the duty of jurors comes to an end. The committee heard repeatedly that for a number of jurors, particularly the ones serving on extensive and gruesome trials or inquests, the transition back to normal life was indeed challenging.

Former juror Patrick Fleming explained:

We need assistance getting back to our “normal” life. We are civilians who did not choose this path for ourselves nor are we trained to deal with this type of situation. Being a juror is a monumental job that has had a major impact on my life.

Many of the former jurors who participated in the committee's study described the difficulties they experienced once the jury task concluded.

Michaela Swan, who I mentioned earlier, stated:

Within 20 minutes of delivering a verdict, and after four days of being sequestered, I walked through an open parking lot with 11 other strangers and returned to normal life. I had Sunday to reconnect with my family and was back to work Monday.

As Patrick Fleming explained:

At the end of the trial, it was so abrupt. One minute I was reading a guilty verdict to five individuals, putting them away for 25 years plus another 25, and then the very next minute the court doors opened, and I was going home. Think about that.

With respect to section 649 of the Criminal Code, some jurors described feelings of isolation. Currently, in Canada, jurors cannot discuss the case with anyone as per section 649 of the Criminal Code itself. They are cut off from their family, friends and usual support networks with whom they would normally share troubling information and receive advice or encouragement. This also can be an added stress.

As Patrick Fleming explained:

I felt isolated from my family and friends. I would distance myself, and I could not share what I was going through....I felt guilty for not being present for my family emotionally and physically.

The important work undertaken by the committee clearly shows that it is possible to prevent or reduce the stress on the juror's experience, particularly by improving the preparation process and the conditions under which jurors fulfill their duties throughout the legal proceedings, as well as by providing jurors with psychological support as needed.

As was also mentioned earlier, it is a worthwhile investment. According to the WHO, every dollar invested in mental health results in about $4 worth of savings.

It is important that we continue to work with the provinces and territories to find solutions that support jurors and their mental health, including an examination of section 649 of the Criminal Code.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 29th, 2018 / 3:05 p.m.
See context


Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

, seconded by the member for Victoria, moved for leave to introduce Bill C-417, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors).

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to introduce a private member's bill to amend section 649 of the Criminal Code.

Earlier this year, the justice committee, of which I am a member, undertook the first parliamentary study on juror supports. In the course of that study, the committee heard from jurors who, for doing nothing more than their civic duty, were exposed to horrific evidence, causing them stress, anxiety and PTSD. They said that one of the biggest impediments to getting the mental health treatment they required was section 649, which prohibits jurors, in all circumstances, for life from disclosing what took place in the course of juror deliberations.

This bill would change that by amending section 649 to provide a narrow exception, whereby jurors could disclose what took place in the course of juror deliberations, namely, when they are getting mental health treatment through a mental health professional who is sworn to confidentiality following the conclusion of a trial. This was unanimously supported by the justice committee and would go a long way to helping jurors who are suffering from PTSD and other mental health challenges arising from their jury service.

I urge the passage of this common sense bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)