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

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Sept. 28, 2022 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors)
May 18, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors)

October 18th, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

October 18, 2022

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Mary May Simon, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the the 18th day of October, 2022, at 4:56 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Ian McCowan

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors) —Chapter 12, and Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (temporary enhancement to the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax credit)—Chapter 13.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2022 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill S‑206 under Private Members' Business.

The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from September 21 consideration of the motion that Bill S‑206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak for what I trust will be the last time on Bill S-206, legislation to support juror mental health.

The idea of this bill came about as a result of a study at the justice committee on juror support, the first of its kind. It was initiated by the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I am very proud to say that the member has been a seconder of this bill and a champion of it.

Five years ago, former jurors came before the justice committee and told their stories of going through difficult trials and of how their mental health suffered as a result. During the study, we learned that former jurors are uniquely impeded in their ability to get mental health supports as a result of something called the jury secrecy rule. Section 649 of the Criminal Code actually makes it a criminal offence for a former juror to disclose any aspect of the deliberation process with anyone for life, even a medical professional.

From a mental health standpoint, how can one get better? How can one get the help they need if they are unable to talk about what is often the most difficult aspect of jury service, the deliberation process?

However, there is a solution to this challenge. That solution is to carve out a narrow exception to the rule so that former jurors can confide with a medical professional about all aspects of jury service bound by confidentiality. It was a key recommendation of our unanimous justice committee report.

Too often in this place, we undertake studies on important topics, produce reports with valuable recommendations and then those reports proceed to be put on a bookshelf where they collect dust. Having regard for the impactful testimony of the former jurors who graciously came before the justice committee to tell their stories, I did not want to see that happen in this case. That is why I put forward a private member's bill to carve out this exception and make that the law.

The bill received unanimous support. Four bills and three Parliaments later, we are on the cusp of seeing this legislation pass into law. From a process standpoint, it highlights the real difficulty in getting a private member's bill across the finish line, even one with unanimous support.

There are a number of people I would like to thank, but unfortunately I do not have the time to do so in the time allocated to me. However, I will thank three people: Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu for introducing this bill in the other place and successfully championing it through the other place; Senator Lucie Moncion, herself a former juror who suffered from mental health issues arising from her service and who played an integral role in seeing the passage of this bill in the other place; and Mark Farrant of the Canadian Juries Commission, himself a former juror and one of the former jurors who came before our committee. Mark is a leading champion today of juror mental health supports.

Jurors play an integral role in the administration of justice in Canada, often at a considerable personal sacrifice. Jurors deserve to get the help they need when they need it. This bill would help former jurors do just that. After five years, let us get this done. Let us get it passed. Let us make it the law.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address the issue at hand. In listening to members speak on the legislation, there are a couple of thoughts specifically that come to mind.

Many years ago, I was a justice critic in the province of Manitoba. I want to highlight the fact that we have discussions in Ottawa and come up with some very good, tangible ideas. As was pointed out, this issue was well debated, discussed and studied in one of our standing committees. Members of the House have already referred to the 2018 standing committee that did a study on this issue. One of the things that Parliament can do and does well is when it identifies an issue on which we can build consensus. Often I will stand and challenge members to support specific pieces of legislation.

This is a bill that does deserve and merit the support of all members of the House of Commons, but we need to recognize the idea of jurisdictional responsibility. Yes, it is in the Criminal Code, but as some speakers have alluded, whether it is was in the study process or even during the debate on this bill or previous bills, we need to recognize that the provinces also play a critical role in this. In fact, I suspect that even if the standing committee did not look at it, which would surprise me, what we would find in Canada is a patchwork system.

Some provinces provide more support than other provinces. In certain areas, and I suggest this is one of those areas, passing this legislation would go a long way in showing national leadership on this important issue and, hopefully, at the end of the day, we would see a more consistent system throughout Canada. I believe we owe that to our jurors.

When we think of the foundations of our nation, we can talk about Parliament or the independence of our judicial system, the rule of law and the fundamental pillars that hold that up. When we talk about the jury process, it is not like people go to court saying, “Pick me, pick me, I want to be a juror.” There is a process by which jurors are selected, and there is an obligation on our residents to fulfill that call to be a jurist when they are put in that position. The member before me referred to a particular incident, a horrific incident. Sadly, we see far too many of those types of incidents in all different regions of our country.

There was a time when mental health, as the previous speaker referenced, was kind of pushed to the side. It is only in the last decade or so that we have seen mental health put front and centre in terms of the need for government policy. When we put that lens on the issue of justice, there are certainly areas that could be clearly amplified, and this is just one of those areas. For all of the reasons the example was cited, one can only imagine the many different horrific examples that have taken place in the last number of years alone that we have asked our fellow citizens to sit and listen to in great detail.

I have never sat as a juror, but I can imagine some of the things that a juror has to go through to ultimately provide that decision, and that decision is absolutely critical in terms of being part of the foundations of our judicial system. I understand and I believe that the vast majority of people would understand and appreciate why it is so critically important that a juror or a jury has to keep what is said within in a very confidential manner.

As I know members of the Liberal caucus do, I suspect, based on the discussions that I hear and the type of support received by previous legislation and the unanimous support of that standing committee I made reference to, that all members of the House understand the issue of mental health and what it is that the individual juror has to go through to reach that decision and fulfill that obligation.

As a society, we are very dependent on that. Given that, and if we take into consideration the issue today of mental health, one would expect we need to be more open to the post-traumatic experiences that many jurors have to deal with as a direct result of their being a good citizen of Canada and participating in our judicial system.

This bill, Bill S-206, is not proposing, as the standing committee is not proposing, that a juror would be able to go out and about and have a press conference and say, “Here is what we dealt with when we went and talked about this case,” prior to conviction or no conviction. What is being suggested here is fair and reasonable. From my perspective and, I believe, the perspective of virtually all members of the House, it is recognizing the needs of that juror, who has had an experience as a direct result of doing the right thing and being there for our nation and supporting our judicial system and who is having a very difficult time coming to grips with what he or she witnessed during the trial.

I think there is an obligation on the government, whether it is the federal government or the provincial government, to take the actions necessary to provide that support. In doing so, we should be thinking about how we maximize the effectiveness of our juries. We have to ensure that the proper supports are there. By doing that, we are minimizing the negative consequences of a juror having to participate.

We are saying, in essence, this: Let us look at ways in which we can allow for that juror to be able to talk to a professional health care provider to seek the counselling and the services that are necessary to support our system and, in particular, that juror.

I think there is an obligation to do that and I believe that is the reason the bill has received the universal support that it has. I suspect that, ultimately, when it does come to a vote, it will be of an unanimous nature.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2022 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to provide a quick warning before I speak. My testimony today contains a lot of graphic facts, and I may struggle getting through it.

I ask my colleagues, my friends and Canadians who are listening to stop for a moment and close their eyes. We can imagine we are a new RCMP constable in northern British Columbia. We are in our car on a dark isolated highway. It is late November, it is cold and it is just past 9 p.m. There is a light dusting of snow that covers the road in front of us as we drive down the dark deserted highway. Spruce and pine trees line the side of the road, illuminated only by the glow of our headlights.

Just up ahead, coming out of an old abandoned logging road, we see another set of lights, an old GMC pickup, and they veer onto the road in front of us. It picks up speed and is driving erratically. We wonder where it was. Why was it down there? Who is in it? Where is it going, and what was it doing down that road? As the questions flood into our minds, suspicion gets the best of us. It is probably a poacher, we think. We make the call, decide to pursue and then pull them over. It is a routine stop on a dark deserted road in the middle of the winter. We cannot possibly imagine that we are about to stumble upon one of Canada's most notorious serial killers.

On November 27, 2010, at approximately 9:45, a rookie police officer by the name of Aaron Kehler was patrolling off of Highway 27 when he noticed an old pickup truck pull out onto the highway from an old remote logging road. Constable Kehler knew there was nothing down that rugged road and thought it was odd that somebody would be down there late at night in the middle of winter. Seeing the truck veer, speed off and drive erratically, Kehler decided to pull the vehicle over. Constable Kehler's routine stop would lead to the arrest and eventual conviction of Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff.

Legebokoff was convicted of killing four women in my riding of Cariboo—Prince George. When the RCMP pulled him over, the first thing they noticed was the blood smears on his chin. A quick examination of the cab of the truck revealed a pool of blood on the floor. Searching the vehicle, they found a bloody wrench, a multitool, a monkey backpack and a wallet that contained a children's hospital card with the name Loren Leslie on it.

When the officers asked Cody about the blood on his face, he said he was hunting deer and had clubbed one to death. RCMP called a wildlife conservation officer with tracking skills. They followed Cody's tire tracks and then his footsteps into the bush. They made a horrifying discovery. It was not the body of a bleeding deer. It was the body of a 15-year-old girl. It was the body of my friend's daughter, Loren Donn Leslie.

I will fast-forward to four years later.

We can picture ourselves in a small, cramped courtroom filled with media, the victims' families, the accused and 11 of our peers. We can try to imagine listening to the gruesome details of what I have just discovered, of how Legebokoff raped and brutally murdered 15-year-old Loren, 23-year-old Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. The trial lasted almost four months. We can imagine sitting through that, day after day of gruesome testimony: brutal blunt force trauma, penetrating knife wounds, a broken jaw and cheekbone.

Jurors heard testimony that one of the victims was found with her pants around her ankles and that she died of blood loss and blunt force trauma. All four women were badly beaten before they died. DNA from one of the victims was found on a pickaxe inside Legebokoff s apartment. Natasha Montgomery's body has never been found, yet her DNA was found 32 times in Legebokoff's apartment, on clothing, on bedsheets and on an axe.

Jurors in this trial listened to the unspeakable acts. They listened for days, weeks and months. When the trial ended and Legebokoff was convicted, they had no where to turn. They had no one they could legally talk to. They had no help to deal with the trauma they experienced reliving these horrific crimes.

I want to commend Senator Boisvenu and my honourable colleague from St. Albert—Edmonton for their work on Bill S-206. I agree with the hon. colleague who spoke earlier and said this bill has taken too long.

For decades, mental health issues have been pushed to the back burner. Men, women and our society in general have viewed mental health through a skewed lens. We have been raised to believe that mental health issues are a weakness of character, a weakness of person and a weakness to be hid and swept under the carpet. Thankfully, in the past few years we have all come to realize that this is not true and that mental health is just as important as physical health. Without mental health, we have no health.

Although we are slowly making progress, there is more that can be done. My latest motion to create a national easy-to-remember three-digit suicide hotline, 988, has finally been approved by the CRTC and will be up and running by fall of next year. However, 988 is just one tool in the tool box. It is not a panacea for all the problems facing us.

The bill before us today is another instrument that can and will help those who often suffer in silence. As the law currently stands, jurors are bound by the jury secrecy rule. They can never reveal what was said and what evidence they were subjected to. They have nowhere to go and nowhere to turn. If they are having trouble dealing with the psychological trauma they have been subjected to, the law forces them to suffer alone. This is not right.

During a study of this issue in the 42nd Parliament, the justice committee heard testimony from another friend of mine, Mark Farrant. Mr. Farrant was called to serve as a juror for another very graphic murder trial here in Ontario. He was subjected to autopsy photos, detailed photos of the victim and the crime scene and detailed photos of the wounds. It was a very incredibly violent homicide.

In his testimony, Mark explained:

As a juror, you are extremely isolated. You cannot communicate with anyone in any form about the events in court or even really with other jurors. I would leave the court in a trance, not remembering even how I got home. I would stare blankly into space during meetings at work or at home while my three-year-old daughter tried desperately to engage with me. My then pregnant wife, who had such an engaged husband during her first pregnancy, now had an emotional zombie in me, unable or unwilling to communicate.

I expected these feelings to subside as I left the courthouse on the day the verdict was delivered. I expected to experience a period of re-acclimatization as I re-entered my life, and then I would be fine. I expected that there would be a thorough discharge and debrief prior to being dismissed, and that perhaps a counsellor would be present who could direct us to services or mental exercises, or indeed talk to us. There was nothing.

My feelings didn't subside. They intensified and deepened. After the trial, I cut off communication with all friends and family, only interacting with colleagues at work, and then only superficially. I became hypervigilant around my kids, refusing to let them walk alone, even a few steps in front of me. I became unable to handle crowds and public spaces. My diet changed. I was unable to look at and prepare raw meat without gagging, something that persists to this day.

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.

What Mark went through was life-altering. What Mark and his family went through is unacceptable. What Mark and thousands of jurors have endured should never happen again.

Bill S-206 would end this. Bill S-206 would carve out an exception to the jury secrecy rule. It would allow the disclosure of the deliberation process by jurors to a health care professional bound by confidentiality.

Jury duty is a core component of the Canadian justice system and enshrined in our charter and Criminal Code. Jurors are core to the administration of justice. Jurors will continue to serve our communities and must witness graphic evidence and horrific crimes as part of their civic duty, but we must afford jurors access to the same mental health support and quality of care available to first responders, health care professionals, legal counsel and even judges. Sadly, in some provinces and territories, jurors are offered no support at all or the bare minimum of care.

This is long past due. We need to pass this legislation now. It will save lives.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I would normally say that I am happy to rise to speak on a bill such as this because it is a fairly simple bill. We have a rule against exposing deliberations of jurors for very good reasons: to make sure those decisions are final, to make sure there is no harassment of jurors and to preserve the rights and integrity of that deliberation process.

Bill S-206 would create a very narrow exception. It would allow those who have suffered post-traumatic stress and other mental health challenges as a result of serving on juries to disclose details of that experience to mental health professionals. It is a simple bill, one that is very necessary.

I want to take a moment to thank the former jurors who have spoken out on this issue, and in particular Mark Farrant for the work he has put into bringing this to the attention of those of us in the House.

Why am I not happy? Well, I am not happy because sometimes when we agree on something that needs to be done and agree that it is a good thing, and we do all agree, it seems to take us a very long time to get the job done.

There was a study at the justice committee, with a unanimous report tabled in 2018. All parties supported taking this kind of action and other actions to support former jurors. This was then introduced as a private member's bill in October 2018 by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. It passed the House on April 12, 2019, with all-party support in the 42nd Parliament. Here we are, two Parliaments later, and we have not gotten this job done.

That is the reason I am not really pleased to be standing to speak to this bill today. In fact, I had hoped we might actually finish with this bill today, because if no one stands to ask for a recorded vote, this would be done. I know there are those who believe there are good reasons to have a recorded vote, and I will be happy to see the virtually unanimous support that I expect in this House for the bill. However, I have to say that what I really believe is that we need to get on with this and get it done. Let us not delay further former jurors who have suffered mental health challenges from being able to seek the professional help they need and deserve as a result of doing their civic duty.

I am proud to support this bill. I urge us all to finish with it as quickly as we can.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

September 21st, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-206, an act to amend the Criminal Code regarding disclosure of information by jurors, because it interests me. Last June, I listened carefully to my colleague from Rivière-du-Nord's speech on the subject, followed the debate and asked a question.

I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and I have substituted on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and even the Standing Committee on National Defence when they were dealing with very sensitive issues, such as rape and other types of sexual violence, so I understand the effect that this type of speech can have.

That being said, Bill S‑206 amends the Criminal Code “to provide that the prohibition against the disclosure of information relating to jury proceedings does not apply, in certain circumstances, in respect of disclosure by jurors to health care professionals”. The bill would enable jurors to disclose information that they heard during a trial or jury proceedings when consulting with a health care professional, whether it be a psychiatrist, doctor or psychologist.

The Bloc Québécois's position could not be clearer. We fully support this bill. Jurors take on a very big responsibility, and that responsibility itself can affect people who have a hard time being forced to make decisions that could change several people's lives. The juror may then be exposed to horrific testimony or evidence, compounding the trauma.

Today I want to speak from a legal perspective. I will be talking about the help that jurors need to cope with what they hear and about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in some cases.

I remind members that these people do not choose to become jurors. They are selected and have a legal obligation to fulfill that duty. They are not always prepared to live with what they hear. The legislator must help make this duty as painless as possible. Some jurors have their lives upended and are left to deal with their trauma alone. The government has a responsibility to these people.

Furthermore, if the juror feels the need to consult a professional who can help them overcome the trauma they have experienced, that professional is also bound by professional confidentiality requirements. Currently, section 649 of the Criminal Code makes it a criminal offence for jurors to disclose non-public information about the trial they are sitting on. The section states:

Every member of a jury, and every person providing technical, personal, interpretative or other support services to a juror with a physical disability, who, except for the purposes of

(a) an investigation of an alleged offence under subsection 139(2) in relation to a juror, or

(b) giving evidence in criminal proceedings in relation to such an offence,

discloses any information relating to the proceedings of the jury when it was absent from the courtroom that was not subsequently disclosed in open court is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The jury secrecy rule, also known as “Lord Mansfield's rule”, is a cornerstone of common law and the British criminal justice system, which I heard about while studying law. The rule not only protects members of the jury, it also protects the integrity of the deliberation process and the validity of the decision.

Jurors' contribution to a trial is an important one. It strengthens public trust in the justice system because decisions are not made in an insular fashion by a single individual mechanically interpreting the law. The jury's importance has been noted and commented on in many different rulings, but one of the most eloquent was written by Justice L'Heureux‑Dubé, who neatly summed it up as follows:

The jury, through its collective decision making, is an excellent fact finder; due to its representative character, it acts as the conscience of the community; the jury can act as the final bulwark against oppressive laws or their enforcement; it provides a means whereby the public increases its knowledge of the criminal justice system and it increases, through the involvement of the public, societal trust in the system as a whole.

Lord Mansfield's rule is guided by three principles. There are three main rationales for the jury secrecy rule.

The first rationale is that “confidentiality promotes candour and the kind of full and frank debate that is essential to this type of collegial decision making. While searching for unanimity, jurors should be free to explore out loud all avenues of reasoning without fear of exposure to public ridicule, contempt or hatred”.

The second rationale is “the need to ensure finality of the verdict. Describing the verdict as the product of a dynamic process, the court emphasized the need to protect the solemnity of the verdict, as the product of the unanimous consensus which, when formally announced, carries the finality and authority of a legal pronouncement”.

Similarly, the rule also seeks to ensure that the “deliberations remain untainted by contact with information or individuals from outside the jury”.

The third rationale is “the need to protect jurors from harassment, censure and reprisals...This in turn is dependent, at the very minimum, on a system that ensures the safety of jurors, their sense of security, as well as their privacy”.

Allowing a juror to consult a mental or physical health professional is not likely to violate any of these principles. This was also the view expressed by Vanessa MacDonnell of the Canadian Criminal Lawyers' Association while testifying before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2018. We have been discussing this for four years. She specifically said: “For many of the concerns that animate the juror secrecy rule, such as the desire for decisions to be final, the desire to preserve the integrity of the deliberation process, and preventing jurors from being subsequently harassed, none of those concerns are really at play if you create a narrow exception”. That argument is even stronger should the therapy take place after the trial has ended.

Bearing in mind the importance of helping jurors, the strongest argument in favour of relaxing the jury secrecy rule is the fact that physical and mental health care professionals are members of professional associations and are bound by the professional confidentiality obligations set out in their association's codes of conduct.

Quebec's Professional Code, chapter C‑26, sets out strict guidelines for professionals who are likely to come in contact with personal and confidential information. Division III of this legislation reserves the titles of certain professions for registered members of the relevant professional order who have a valid permit. This is the case for social workers, psychologists, human resource advisers and psychoeducators.

Section 60.4 of that legislation states that every professional must preserve the secrecy of all confidential information except in certain circumstances. If a professional is being sued by their client, they can sometimes disclose information that is required for their defence, even if such information is confidential. Furthermore, a professional can disclose confidential information “with the authorization of his client or where so ordered or expressly authorized by law...in order to prevent an act of violence, including a suicide, where he has reasonable cause to believe that there is a serious risk of death or serious bodily injury threatening a person or an identifiable group of persons and where the nature of the threat generates a sense of urgency”.

In all of these scenarios, the professional can disclose only information that is relevant to the situation at hand.

It would be surprising if highly specific details of witness testimony or court proceedings had to be shared in the case of any of these exceptions. The legislation specifically states that the “professional must furnish and at all times maintain security to cover any liability he may incur because of any fault committed in the practice of his profession”.

Additional privacy protections are also included, namely the fact that the “professional must respect the right of his client to cause to be corrected any information that is inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous with regard to the purpose for which it was collected, contained in a document concerning him in any record established in his respect. He must also respect the right of his client to cause to be deleted any information that is outdated or not justified by the object of the record, or to prepare written comments and file them in the record”.

There are similar codes of conduct in the other Canadian provinces, including Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick. There is also a Canadian code of ethics that takes into account the provinces' legislation and regulations.

Let us talk about post-traumatic stress disorder. There have been countless media reports about jurors developing PTSD after sitting through gruesome trials. The case of young Victoria Stafford is one example.

In conclusion, I am well aware that the trauma jurors go through can lead to PTSD. Jurors themselves have said the horrific cases they heard left them scarred. There is also the case of Mark Farrant, who was a juror on a murder trial involving a young woman who had been severely burned.

As a student at the CEGEP de Jonquière in 2011, I researched PTSD in the armed forces. The consequences can take a toll on family members, in the form of alcoholism, violence or mental health problems. We need to realize that and take action as a society.

The House resumed from June 9 consideration of the motion that Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), be read the third time and passed.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill S-206, an act to amend the Criminal Code on disclosure of information by jurors.

Bill S-206 proposes an amendment that seeks to help jurors who face mental health challenges flowing from fulfilling their civic duty and after completion of a jury trial. It proposes to do so by adding an exception to the offence of disclosure of jury proceedings under section 649 of the Criminal Code.

The substance of this legislation is short and straightforward and I believe is targeting an important issue deserving of our attention. Indeed, when we situate the bill in the present context of the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic, we can all understand the importance of supporting the well-being and mental health of Canadians, and particularly those who participate in the justice system.

We know the pandemic has affected the mental health of Canadians. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, almost half of all Canadians have reported that their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic. A Statistics Canada survey on COVID‑19 and mental health in September 2021 indicated that one in four Canadians, or 25%, age 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder in the spring of 2021, up from one in five, or 21%, in the fall of 2020.

A more recent study in January 2022, from the Angus Reid Institute, found that the population is largely fatigued, frustrated and anxious, with one in three Canadians, or 36%, stating they are struggling with their mental health. According to this study, this represents an increase from the one-quarter who responded in November 2021, prior to omicron becoming the dominant COVID‑19 variant in Canada.

Canadians across the country who are experiencing mental health difficulties are the very same population called upon for jury duty by way of provincial and territorial legislative processes governing the criteria with respect to who may serve and be summoned as a juror. I am very pleased that the government is committed to supporting Canadians and their mental health through the COVID‑19 pandemic and beyond, such as through its record of investing millions into mental health and distress centres.

Thanks to the previous work undertaken by the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to study counselling and mental health supports for jurors, we have a better understanding of the experience of Canadians who serve on juries and the potentially long-lasting impacts of such service. The committee's May 2018 report entitled “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada” documented that many former jurors described their jury duty experience as positive. However, the report also includes testimony from jurors who served on difficult and unfortunately disturbing criminal cases ended up encountering much mental health distress and suffering, and in some instances even reported post-traumatic stress disorder following their service. It is conceivable that jury duty during any pandemic could give rise to additional stresses and strains on an individual, for example, concerns over their safety and physical-distancing requirements being respected at all times.

I believe that if serving on a jury creates a need for mental health supports, then there should not be barriers for those who must access them. Bill S-206 proposes to amend section 649 of the Criminal Code by adding a narrow exception to the offence prohibiting jurors from disclosing information otherwise disclosed in open court to enable them to share this information in the course of receiving mental health treatment from a health care professional.

While the purpose of section 649 of the Criminal Code is to protect the integrity of the jury deliberation process, the offence has been identified as posing a barrier for jurors in accessing mental health supports by former jurors and in the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendment proposed in Bill S-206 would address recommendation 4 of the report of the standing committee, which proposes that there may be a more lenient secrecy rule for jury deliberations. The committee's recommendations were unanimously supported.

I certainly support the recommendation and I support this bill. For instance, former Bill C-417 in 2019 unanimously passed in the House of Commons following the adoption of amendments by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

I call on all members to support Bill S-206 because it would allow former jurors to be freer in expressing their thoughts and feelings to a health care professional on matters that may have deeply disturbed or upset them or caused significant stress during their service as a juror.

It is a remarkable aspect of our justice system that jurors across the country and in countless courtrooms meet the challenges of jury duty, and so it only makes sense that they would be able to receive the support they need to return to their lives afterward. I am pleased that the government expressed its support for former Bill C-417 and is now in support of Bill S-206. The government has introduced, and Parliament has enacted, a number of changes to improve the jury regime in the Criminal Code.

For example, the Government of Canada introduced legislation that was passed by Parliament in 2019, former Bill C-75, which included several Criminal Code amendments to improve the in court jury selection process. These amendments abolished peremptory challenges, which have been linked to discriminatory application to exclude potential jurors from jury duty; simplified and strengthened the challenge for cause process; modernized the grounds for such challenges; and clarified the power of judges to stand aside jurors to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.

More recently, on February 8, 2022, the government introduced Senate legislation to help address the challenges faced by criminal courts caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bill S-4, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make related amendments to other Acts relating to the COVID-19 response and other measures, includes proposed amendments that would, among other things, increase the use of technology in the jury selection process, including allowing prospective jurors to participate by video conference where the court considers it appropriate and with the consent of the prosecutor and the accused.

The pandemic and the resulting public health guidelines for physical distancing have made it especially challenging for courts to conduct jury selection proceedings, as these proceedings can sometimes involve several hundreds of people being physically present in the same location at the same time.

The amendments proposed in Bill S-4 would help provide courts with greater flexibility in how jury selection processes are held, and it may serve to be a useful tool in accommodating prospective jurors who have been summoned to participate in the selection process.

Our government is proud to support this bill, as it recognizes the vital role and dedicated service of jurors in the Canadian justice system. As we bring the justice system into the 21st century, we will work to ensure jurors can be better supported in their roles in addition to facilitating the sharing of best practices between jurisdictions.

I want to take a moment to commend my colleagues on the justice and human rights committee for working collaboratively to study and pass this important bill. It is an example of the progress we can achieve when we work together, across party lines, to support all Canadians.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Halifax Nova Scotia

Liberal

Andy Fillmore LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to participate in the third reading debate on Senate Bill S-206. This bill would amend section 649 of the Criminal Code to add an exception for the offence of disclosure of jury proceedings to enable jurors to disclose information in the course of receiving mental health treatment.

Our government recognizes the importance of supporting jurors in their duties and is committed to working with the provinces and territories to improve support measures for jurors and to facilitate the sharing of best practices between jurisdictions. I want to thank the members of all parties on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for studying and passing this important bill collaboratively, and ensuring that we could debate it today.

There could be significant mental health and other stresses associated with jury duty, and the toll that criminal trials could take on jurors is something that we cannot ignore. Thanks to former jurors who have come forward and advocated for improved juror supports, we have a greater appreciation of the challenges jurors face and the intense personal and mental health impacts that could follow an individual after their jury duty has ended.

Notably, over the years we have benefited from the testimony and lived experiences of former Ontario juror Mark Farrant, who is also the founder and CEO of the Canadian Juries Commission, a national not-for-profit organization representing Canadians on jury duty and in coroner's inquests. I am very pleased to have learned that the Department of Justice recently provided funding to the Canadian Juries Commission for a jury-related project.

The project is with respect to the Canadian Juries Commission's creation of two mental health training and support programs for Canadians performing jury duty and piloting them exclusively in British Columbia. Our government agrees that meaningful support to jurors who play an essential role in the Canadian justice system is needed to ensure that they can effectively perform this important civic duty and limit negative consequences.

The standing committee's May 2018 report entitled “Improving Support for Jurors in Canada” documented that many former jurors described their jury duty experience as positive. However, the report also included testimony from jurors who served on difficult and disturbing criminal cases, and who have encountered mental health distress, suffering and in some instances even reported post-traumatic stress disorder following their service.

The committee's recommendation 4 in its report was “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.”

Bill S-206 proposes an amendment that would address this recommendation and concerns over the offence in section 649 providing an obstacle to jurors seeking mental health support following the completion of a trial. The committee's recommendations were unanimously supported. I certainly support the recommendation and I support this bill.

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. This offence applies to every juror and every person that provides technical, personal, interpretative or other support services to a juror with a physical disability.

There are existing exceptions under section 649 which permit disclosure in respect of an investigation or prosecution of a charge of obstruction of justice in relation to a juror, under subsection 139(2) of the Criminal Code. However, the general rule is that a juror cannot discuss anything that has to do with the deliberations of the jury with anyone apart from the other members of that same jury.

The substance of this legislation is short and straightforward, and I believe it is targeting an important issue deserving of our attention. Indeed, when we situate the bill in the present context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we can all understand the importance of supporting the well-being and mental health of Canadians, particularly those who are participants in the justice system.

We know that the pandemic has affected the mental health of Canadians. A Statistics Canada survey on COVID-19 and mental health in September 2021 indicated that one in four Canadians, or 25%, age 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder in the spring of 2021, up from one in five, or 21%, in the fall of 2020, a year earlier.

A more recent study in January 2022 from the Angus Reid Institute found that the population is largely fatigued, frustrated and anxious, with one in three Canadians, or 36%, saying that they are struggling with their mental health. According to this study, this represents an increase from the one-quarter who responded in November 2021, prior to omicron becoming the dominant COVID-19 variant in Canada.

Canadians across the country who are experiencing mental health difficulties are the very same population that is called upon for jury duty by way of provincial and territorial legislative processes governing the criteria with respect to who may serve and be summoned as a juror. I am very pleased that the government committed to supporting Canadians and their mental health through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, such as through its record of investing millions in the mental health and distress centres that exist across the country. If serving on a jury creates the need for mental health supports, then there should not be barriers for those who must access them.

Encouraging citizens to perform their civic duty and supporting former jurors is one way in which we can ensure our justice system remains strong and fair. The Canadian Juries Commission conducted a national opinion survey in June 2020, which identified that only 18% of Canadians indicated their willingness to participate in jury duty. One can imagine that the criminal justice system would fare better in attracting jurors if individuals summoned for jury duty or who serve on a jury know that despite how difficult that service might be, they will not be impeded in accessing the support that they need to remedy any potential mental health impacts that they may face.

I call on all members to support Bill S-206, because it would allow former jurors to be freer in expressing their thoughts and feelings to a health care professional on matters that may have deeply disturbed or upset them or caused significant stress during their service as a juror. It is a remarkable aspect of our justice system that jurors across the country and in countless courtrooms meet the challenges of jury duty, and it only makes sense that they would be able to receive the support that they need to return to their lives afterward.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2022 / 6 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S‑206, which is before the House for a fourth time, if we count the three previous versions of the bill introduced in previous Parliaments. Regardless, the bill we are studying today is still the same bill.

Bill S‑206 essentially proposes a change to the existing rules regarding the confidentiality of deliberations between members of a jury who have to decide the fate of an accused person. The jury secrecy rule is set out in section 649 of the Criminal Code and is also called “Lord Mansfield's rule”. It is a cornerstone of common law and the British criminal justice system.

This rule is anything but trivial. The jury is the trier of fact. The judge presiding over a trial is the trier of law. The judge adjudicates matters of law that arise over the course of the trial and gives the necessary advice to inform and guide the jury regarding these matters. That said, at the end of the day, as intended by the legislator, it is the members of the jury who decide whether the accused is guilty or innocent.

The role of jurors is therefore vitally important to the judicial process. When they deliberate, they need to feel completely free to say what they think out loud without worrying about being publicly quoted later as having put forward a certain idea or opinion. Obviously, jurors will often disagree with one another when they first begin their deliberations, but they will work together to consider all the facts entered into evidence during the trial, which may have gone on for many weeks in some cases.

At that point, the success of their work will basically depend on the flow of their debate and how comfortable they feel talking freely and unreservedly among themselves. I am thinking of the ability to share the uninhibited, unfiltered thoughts that come into our minds as we think about what we are going to say. The legislator grants the jury a type of legal status—a partial, temporary status—that lasts only as long as the trial. The jury will then speak with one voice and render a unanimous verdict, like a single person who speaks after carefully considering and weighing all aspects of an issue.

It is therefore easy to see that a sound decision requires absolute confidence in the confidentiality of their deliberations, just as every one of us refuses to compromise the integrity and inviolability of our thoughts. Anyone who, rightly or wrongly, believes someone else is probing their thoughts will self‑censor and be unable to think freely. That is anathema to a healthy thought process and wise deliberation.

Section 649 of the Criminal Code states that it is an offence for a jury member or anyone assisting them to disclose “any information relating to the proceedings of the jury, when it was absent from the courtroom that was not subsequently disclosed in open court”.

In this regard, the Supreme Court has already ruled as follows in R. v. Pan and R. v. Sawyer in 2001:

The common law rule, in combination with s. 649 of the Code, helps to ensure that jurors feel comfortable freely expressing their views in the jury room and that jurors who hold minority viewpoints do not feel pressured to retreat from their opinions because of possible negative repercussions associated with the disclosure of their positions.

We therefore understand that this is the rule that ensures sound, reasonable decisions. That said, jury duty is not always easy.

Sometimes, the facts and evidence of a criminal case can be so intense that they have a significant impact on the jury members hearing the case. Unfortunately, violence and horror can feature prominently in the crimes a person is accused of.

Furthermore, jury deliberations can often be very emotional. It is extremely stressful to stand alone against 11 other jurors and defend a point of view that none of them agree with. Add to that the often heavy consequences that the jury's decision will have for the accused, and I have no difficulty imagining that the situation can become untenable.

In some cases, jury members can be traumatized to such an extent that they have to consult a health professional to deal with it. Some experiences have drastically transformed the lives of jurors left to cope with their trauma alone. These people did not choose to be jurors; they were chosen, and they had a legal obligation to fulfil that duty. They clearly deserve our gratitude and our support. As things stand now, it is more difficult for them to receive care and adequate treatment for what they are suffering, as they cannot speak freely about their trauma without contravening section 649 of the Criminal Code.

Ensuring access to adequate and efficient health services for those who generously contributed to the justice system is obviously paramount. It is our responsibility. It is only common sense that we concur with what is fair and obvious.

Bill S‑206 proposes to allow members of a jury to be exempt from this rule of confidentiality if they require professional health services for medical or psychiatric treatment, therapy or counselling provided after the trial.

This bill asks us to examine a proposed new paragraph (c) under section 649 of the Criminal Code, adding new exceptions to those already established in paragraphs (a) and (b) to allow for evidence to be given in obstruction of justice cases. The proposed paragraph (c) adds an exemption from the confidentiality obligation for the purposes of:

(c) any medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling that a person referred to in subsection (1) receives from a health care professional after the completion of the trial in relation to health issues arising out of or related to the person's service at the trial as a juror or as a person who provided support services to a juror.

The proposed subsection 649(3) also adds that the health care professional who provides any medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling must be entitled to do so under the laws of a province.

This is a small loophole in the absolutely essential integrity of the confidentiality of jury deliberations. However, the loophole is closed by the confidentiality obligation in the rules of ethical conduct that professional associations impose on their members.

The House must now weigh the benefits to the justice system of keeping jury deliberations confidential against the benefits to jury members of having more accessible and certainly more effective consultation services between each other and, if applicable, their health professionals.

These decent individuals already do not receive the compensation and consideration they deserve in light of their valuable contribution to the justice system. They are at the heart of some legal as well as moral debates for which they were never prepared. They are calling for a bit of support and recognition, which seems like the bare minimum. As I said, they deserve our respect, our recognition and better working conditions. One day, we will probably have to think about what more we can do to acknowledge their true value.

Under the circumstances, the Bloc Québécois will be voting in favour of this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Ottawa Centre Ontario

Liberal

Yasir Naqvi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill S-206, an act to amend the Criminal Code relating to disclosure of information by jurors.

We heard quite eloquently from the member for St. Albert—Edmonton of the need for and importance of the bill. I want to thank him again for his leadership, determination and co-operation with all members in this House and the Senate in getting the bill to this point.

I will start by acknowledging the two people whom the member spoke about as being instrumental. I think they would argue that they are just the voices that raised these issues and that there are many people who have served as jurors across this country who are the motivation behind the work they are doing. Those two people are Mark Farrant and Tina Daenzer. I am happy to acknowledge that both of them are with us in the House. I want to thank them personally for joining us here today and for their advocacy over the years. They both are part of the Canadian Juries Commission, an organization that is very much focused on creating and promoting awareness around jury duty, support for jurors and, of course, educating all of us not only at the federal level in this House and in the Senate, but also in the provincial and territorial legislative assemblies across the country.

As the member for St. Albert—Edmonton mentioned, I have had the opportunity to work on this important issue from the perspective of the provinces in terms of ensuring there are mental health supports for jurors. It is an interesting story as to how I came to work on this, and it is because I met Mark Farrant.

The first time I saw Mr. Farrant, it was not in person. As many of us do after a full day at the legislative assembly, I was watching the national news when I saw a story about a juror who had suffered significant mental health challenges, described as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as a result of being part of a fairly gruesome and horrific murder trial. That person was Mr. Farrant, who was brave enough to speak on television about his trials and tribulations.

We have a special responsibility by virtue of the fact that we are elected and have some impact on the things that we see and hear in our society. I was quite taken aback by his story. At the time, I was not just a member of provincial Parliament, but I was also the attorney general of the province, and I was watching on TV this person describing his suffering. He was talking about how the justice system, as much as it had asked of him as a citizen of this country to participate in a critical element of our justice system, was not there to give him the support that he needed to continue on with his life.

I personally felt guilty, because I was not even aware at the time that this issue existed. As a result of that, we started to work on the issue. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Farrant who, of course, in his very calm, persuasive manner, was able to educate me and officials of the ministry of the attorney general as to the impact on jurors when they go through trials that are gruesome and horrific, and when they are given evidence of that nature.

By working together, we were able to introduce in a very short period of time a support program for jurors, albeit limited in scope. I am confident there is more work to be done, as was stated earlier. However, it is a program that jurors can access for mental health support and, importantly, have that information provided ahead of time. I remember reviewing some of the draft documents that were being created to hand over to jurors and, of course, working with the judiciary and other court officials, and providing them training so that they would be able to speak with jurors in advance of trials in order to make them aware.

It is interesting for me to come a bit full circle now that I am elected as a member of Parliament. As the federal jurisdiction, we are responsible for the Criminal Code. There actually is a barrier in our Criminal Code that prevents, by law, our jurors from seeking medical help if they need it by virtue of the fact that section 649 of the Criminal Code requires non-disclosure of information that jurors have received.

We encourage people, if they need mental health supports, to go see a mental health care professional. That requires one to share information and to be able to speak of things that one is feeling and facing. This particular rule that exists in our Criminal Code prevents this. We are putting a juror in a position of actually breaking the law, because they are to keep secret the information they have seen, even though they are in front of a health care professional.

The solution that is presented before us is part of Bill S-206. It is something that I fully support and will be voting in favour of. It creates an exception to the jury secrecy rule to allow jurors, in a very limited, narrow scope, to seek health support so that they can look after their own personal health, especially their mental health.

In my view, there is no reason why all members of the House would not support the bill to pass it into law as soon as possible. As we heard from the member for St. Albert—Edmonton, other members from all parties have worked on this issue. I want to also acknowledge the engagement and participation of the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. Of course, there is the work that has been done in the Senate by Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu. All of this has resulted in our being on the cusp of passing this bill into law, so that we can get into the elements of supports that are needed by our jurors. I would encourage all members to support this bill, so that it can be passed into law.

In my limited time, I also want to mention the great resource we have in the Canadian Juries Commission. It has been doing some incredible work in creating awareness around the kind of supports that jurors need. I think we need to spend more time with it.

I understand that, in fact, some work has been done. The Department of Justice, under the leadership of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has partnered with the Canadian Juries Commission to do some pilot projects in British Columbia. These are very good steps, because the results from those pilots can be applicable across the country, but also recognize and appreciate our jurors.

Most recently, many members will remember, through the initiative of the Canadian Juries Commission, we had a week-long appreciation of jurors, to understand the work they do and their contributions to our justice system, which is the essence of our democratic system.

That is the work we have to do. I very much look forward to working with all members on this important issue, but particularly with the Canadian Juries Commission. Hopefully, we will start by passing this bill into law.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

June 9th, 2022 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to Bill S-206 at third reading stage. It is an act to amend the Criminal Code relating to section 649, otherwise known as the jury secrecy rule. This bill, which I was proud to sponsor in the House of Commons, is a straightforward piece of legislation that would carve out a narrow exception to the jury secrecy rule.

As it currently stands, former jurors are unable to disclose any aspect of their jury service with anyone for life, even a medical professional bound by confidentiality. This bill addresses that by carving out an exception whereby former jurors who are suffering from mental health issues arising from their jury service could disclose all aspects of that service with a medical professional bound by confidentiality.

This bill is a needed piece of legislation that would go a long way to supporting juror mental health, and I will get into the substance of that momentarily. I am very pleased that this bill has been reported back to the House from the justice committee unamended and with unanimous support. This bill has already passed the House unanimously at second reading stage.

A bill that I introduced in the 42nd Parliament, Bill C-417, a bill that is substantively the same as this bill, passed the House at all legislative stages but did not progress due to the call of the 2019 election. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, who introduced this bill in the Senate, and Senator Lucie Moncion, a former juror who suffered from mental health issues arising from her jury service, we have seen this bill clear the other place, again with unanimous support.

I speak to the unanimity around this bill because it really does underscore that this is a common-sense fix. It is not often that we can find unanimous support across the board from all parliamentarians and all stakeholders involved, including former jurors, mental health professionals and lawyers, among others.

This bill is a product of the study the justice committee undertook on juror supports, the first parliamentary study of its kind. It was initiated by the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. I had the privilege of serving on the justice committee during the study and continue to serve on that committee. I can tell members that while there are many people I can thank for leading the bill to where it is today in being on the cusp of passing into law, this bill would not have happened but for the jurors who came before the justice committee. These former jurors came to our committee and talked about the impact the jury service had on them.

Jury service is something that I think sometimes we do not know enough about, unless we are summoned to serve on a jury or know someone who has been. Jury service can be stressful. Jurors can be exposed to horrific evidence, and it can have an impact on their mental health.

To provide just a bit of context in terms of the experiences of former jurors who conveyed their stories before the justice committee, I want to take a moment to read into the record some of the testimony we heard four and a half years ago.

Mark Farrant, a jury foreman in a gruesome murder trial, said:

In court as a juror, I took all the evidence in silently, as was my role. As jurors, we ingest the evidence and the facts. We do not interact with it. We are not afforded an opportunity to look away or raise our hands and say to the courtroom, “Turn that off; I've had enough.”

Tina Daenzer, who served as juror number one in the gruesome Paul Bernardo trial, said, “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.”

Patrick Fleming, who served on a jury involving a 10-month gruesome murder trial, spoke about jury service and the impact it had on his life. He said:

When my civic duty was done and I was able to go home to my family and return to my “normal” life, I pulled into my driveway and expected feelings of relief to wash over me, but something was different. I did not feel at my place of peace. Something was not right.

He went on to say:

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.

In the course of our study, we heard about the jury secrecy rule and the degree to which it can impede jurors getting the full mental health supports they need. In that regard, there are at least two impediments.

The first is that the deliberation process is often the most stressful aspect of jury service. To not be able to talk about what is often the most stressful aspect of jury service is clearly an impediment to getting the help that a juror suffering from mental health issues requires. The second issue, which is more general in nature, is that it can impact the ability of former jurors to have full and frank discussions with mental health and other medical professionals because there is a lack of understanding about what the boundaries are regarding what can be talked about in light of the jury secrecy rule. We even heard that some medical professionals are reluctant to take on former jurors as clients as a result.

That is where this bill comes in. It provides clarity in the law and ensures that former jurors can have those full and frank discussions in a strictly confidential context. These full and frank discussions are often so vital to getting better in the face of mental health issues. This legislation is not novel. It may be new to Canada, but it has been successfully implemented in the Australian state of Victoria, where it has worked very well.

This issue and the way this bill has moved forward speak to Parliament working at its best. We had a groundbreaking study on juror supports in which an issue was identified regarding jurors getting mental health supports, and a solution was identified.

Rather than letting the unanimous report sit on the shelf and collect dust, I took it upon myself to introduce a bill, Bill C-417, a few months after the release of that report. However, at all stages, up until today, I received full support and collaboration from all members on all sides, including the member for Mount Royal, who was the chair of the justice committee during the study, the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford and the former member for Victoria, who is the minister of aboriginal affairs today in the Government of British Columbia, among many others, all of whom recognized that this was an issue and that we needed to work together to implement a key common-sense recommendation that is small but will have a meaningful impact.

This bill is very close to crossing the finish line, and I hope it will cross the finish line today so that we can send it to the Governor General. It is a step forward, but a lot more work needs to be done around juror mental health. When we think about it, in a criminal trial, the lawyers, the Crown, the defence, the presiding judge and court workers all have access to various mental health programs and supports, but guess who often do not. It is the men and women who do not have a choice to be there. They are there because they have been summoned. They are performing their civic duty, and often they have nothing in the way of mental health support programs.

Fortunately, there has been some movement. Four provinces now have juror support programs, but they are not robust enough. In short, jurors in those four provinces have access to up to four counselling sessions free of charge. Often that is about it, and those measures were only implemented in the last number of years. I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre because when he was the minister of justice, he heard Mark Farrant and took it upon himself to see that the Province of Ontario developed a juror support program. However, there is more work to do because in six provinces there are essentially no supports and we need to do better.

What I hope is that after we pass this bill, the government will take seriously the implementation of another key recommendation of the report on juror supports: to work with the provinces to address the patchwork in the lack of supports and the inadequacy of supports, and provide, among other things, one-time funding so that we can have the supports that jurors deserve.

Jurors play an integral role in the administration of justice. We owe this to them. They should not have to suffer from mental health issues, unable to get help. This bill is a step in the direction of helping former jurors. I say very simply that it is a bill that has been studied and debated exhaustively. We all know the issue and we know what needs to be done. Let us get this bill passed and sent to the Governor General today to be brought into law.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.