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

Sponsor

Michael Cooper  Conservative

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

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 27, 2018

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Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2018 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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, but...you 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.
See context

NDP

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.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

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:

....to 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

Conservative

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)