Evidence of meeting #77 for Justice and Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was jurors.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Daniel Cozine  As an Individual
Michaela Swan  As an Individual

5:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Daniel Cozine

I think it would be important to also be able to talk to somebody from court services individually. We had an amazing bailiff who guided us throughout the whole trial. It would have been very interesting to take some time with him when the trial was over, for him to tell us as individuals that here is what you can talk about and here is what you shouldn't talk about, and those kinds of things. I think that for individuals that would certainly be valuable.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Ms. Swan.

5:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Michaela Swan

I would agree. I think there's a need for a group discussion at some point. Even having the judge come in after we delivered our verdict was a healthy thing for us just to decompress. It was almost 11 o'clock on a Saturday night and we wanted to get home to our own beds and our families. But I would have liked to come back even the next day or week. I went through a period in which I wanted to be with that group, and then I thought I needed some space, and then I wanted to come back.

There are things or questions you think about after, that you just need to process. I think that just the option to talk to somebody or to speak about it individually needs to be there.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Colin Fraser Liberal West Nova, NS

Very good, thank you.

That's probably my time.

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you very much.

Mr. MacGregor.

November 27th, 2017 / 5:35 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you very much, Chair.

Mr. Cozine and Ms. Swan, I want to applaud both of you for coming before us today and lending your incredibly important testimony to this study so that we may come forth with some serious recommendations.

What I was really struck by in both of your testimonies was the professionalism with which you approached your jury duty. I've had the privilege of meeting a number of first responders in my job as a member of Parliament, and the discussion of operational stress injury and PTSD has been a frequent topic. But it's important to remember that these people are people who volunteered to enter their service. They are professionals and they have those professional supports. A lot has been learned over the last 10 years about, as you alluded to, the need to address PTSD and mental health at an early stage with strong supports.

Mr. Cozine, maybe I'll start with you, and then get Ms. Swan to comment.

Mr. Cozine, you alluded to the costs that can come later on, especially when you were referring to the investment that should be made in mental health supports. You were lucky enough to have those supports through your family and your work, but other jurors may not have been as fortunate as you. Can you just explain to this committee what the cost to society could be later on if those mental health issues stemming from a juror's experience at a particularly gruesome trial are not addressed?

5:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Daniel Cozine

I think it's important to note that not everybody sees and reacts to these things in the same way.

I'll take one individual on our jury as an example. She was an 18-year-old girl who had just graduated from high school and did not have a job at that point. There was no chance for her to have any outside work to help pay for anything.

Having said that, if I hadn't had support through that and family and things early on.... When you do this, I know that there's a very real questioning of yourself, and I would suggest, even a bit of depression that comes along with not being able to talk to anybody. I think that when you have someone like this 18-year-old girl, who really struggled.... She went to the media also and talked about it very briefly, but after any chance of trying to contact her went unreplied to, you always wonder how she is doing now. Has she been able to seek that help?

You may have people who are completely mentally well, as I was, and who are coming out at the end of it not mentally well. If you don't have that support, maybe that depression takes hold of you or her or anyone, and it can continue down the line in terms of doctors' visits, prescriptions, and those kinds of things. I think there is a cost later on. As you say, we need to get these things looked at right away so there aren't costs down the line.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you.

Ms. Swan, can I get you to comment, too, please?

5:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Michaela Swan

Yes, I certainly agree with some of the things Daniel had to say about the costs down the line of having just a quick intervention, of going into depression, and the impacts on your family, your career, and your employment.

I'll backtrack just a bit. In my career in the public service, I was in wildland firefighting. I can look at some of the critical incident stress debriefings that we went through in some of our situations there. You show up to work and you think it's a normal day, and the next thing you know one of our air tankers has crashed and your colleagues have been killed. You're responding to the fire and you're also dealing with that. We go through the process, but it is just expected that you attend your critical incident stress debriefing. You look your friends and your colleagues in the eye. You go through it, you check in with each other, and you take care of each other.

I was in that jury-room with some of the intensities of the conversations and the emotions, and the different backgrounds of the people in the room, and I equate serving as a juror with the exact same emotional response that I had from dealing with those types of serious incidents. It just needed to be talked about and processed to take you away from any of that PTSD. Just a proactive response...it may still happen, but if we can just get a way to work through some of those feelings in advance, it would be better.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

I have just one last question, and I'll get a comment from both you. I'll start with you, Ms. Swan.

We ultimately want to arrive at a place where this committee makes some solid recommendations. We have a situation in Canada where the administration of justice falls under provincial jurisdiction. We have the Province of Ontario, which does have a counselling program for jurors, but it's non-existent in our home province of British Columbia.

Can you both comment, please, on what you perceive the role of the federal government to be when you potentially have a patchwork quilt with 10 different provincial jurisdictions?

5:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Michaela Swan

That's a good question. I don't know. I guess part of the reason I'm here today is to tell my story and listen. I don't know if it's an oversight or somebody made an intentional decision to not provide these services to jurors. I genuinely think that it was probably an oversight. The provincial government supplies this to their employees, and I think that jurors for a short time maybe are employees of the provincial government in doing justice for our country. If the federal government can summarize some of the experiences across our country and influence change, that's ultimately why I'm here.

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Cozine.

5:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Daniel Cozine

That question came up a lot when I first started this. I had written some letters to MLAs and MPs early on, and all the replies from federal MPs said that it falls to the provinces to make these things happen.

I guess for me to be part of a forum like this is to ask the federal government to make a type of framework where.... Health care is a federal thing, but it's administered by the provinces. Education is a federal thing, but it's administered by the provinces, as is justice.

It's to have something like this, where the federal government says that provinces need to have something, in some way, shape, or form, to help jurors after these trials. As you say, some provinces have nothing. Some provinces have the start of something that could be very good. It should not be that a juror in Ontario gets support when their trial is done and a juror in Saskatchewan or B.C. or P.E.I. doesn't have any.

I think it's important that the federal government, in a committee like this, recommends that provinces need to have something. “Here are some examples of what can be done in your province. Here are some ways you can work it.” Ultimately, it is up to the provinces, as that's the way our system works. However, for the federal government to say they have to have something in place to help jurors.... How that looks provincially is up to each of the provinces.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Thank you very much.

Mr. McKinnon.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to both witnesses for your testimony and for being here.

As Mr. MacGregor alluded to earlier, the support for jurors across this country is a patchwork, so I have a bit of information from some online research about Quebec, Alberta, and B.C.

In B.C., it looks like if at least six jurors from the same trial ask for help, you can get a one-hour counselling session. In Quebec, a judge can approve the cost of five one-hour sessions with a psychologist, if jurors present a prescription. Alberta has a program that provides jurors with free access to mental health services during the trial, or up to two months after the conclusion of a case, and counsellors are available in person or over the phone.

Mr. Cozine, are you aware of what's available in Saskatchewan?

I would appreciate it if both of you could comment on which of these choices—and I'm guessing it's going to be Alberta—would be the best approach.

Mr. Cozine.

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Daniel Cozine

As far as I know right now, Saskatchewan does not have any supports that are not mandated by the judge. If the judge doesn't say, yes you need to go and get something, there's nothing.

You're right, Alberta probably has it.... I don't want to say right, but it has the best steps forward. Again, as Michaela said, and I would say too.... I didn't start counselling for a number of weeks after, so to say one week out of trial or you're out of luck, that isn't long enough. These things can come up months later.

I can understand putting a time frame on it. I wouldn't say years and years later that I was a juror a long time ago, I need counselling, and I think the province should pay for it.

If it is specific to being on a jury, I would say that Alberta is probably an option that I would like to see in Saskatchewan. I did have some contact with the justice minister and his head bailiff in the province to talk about some of these things. They talked about looking at a way to start, but that's pretty much where it ended.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Thank you.

Ms. Swan, would you care to respond as well?

5:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Michaela Swan

I didn't know what B.C. had to offer until after I served on jury duty, and nothing ultimately was offered to us. However, I think Alberta has a structure in place that may be of assistance.

When I think of the cost, to some degree I still narrow in on that peer-to-peer...to be able to have a conversation and talk about it.

There is a big grey area. You're told that what happened is confidential, but I think not all of it's confidential. There are emotions and thoughts and things that you can process that potentially aren't risking the confidentiality of what led to a decision.

It's to be able to talk to somebody and look them in eye—it doesn't even have to be from the same trial or your jury—somebody else who has been through it, a comrade who could probably just intervene there. It may not even need to get to a professional level in terms of the additional support services that would be required. Some people may need that, but not everybody. If there could just be some conversations and debriefing, it would be helpful.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Ms. Swan, you said in your testimony that the jury deliberation phase was the most difficult for you. In your testimony and in your answers to previous questions, it seems to me that you suggest that much of that stress had to do with managing the jury and trying to bring them to a conclusion. In addition to that, it seems to me there may be a different kind of stress relating to the content, to the evidence. You also mentioned a need for compensation, so there are three different areas of stress here.

Would you say that counselling is needed for all of these different kinds of stress? Would you deal with each of these kinds of stress in a different way?

5:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Michaela Swan

Again, I think they're going to land on every juror very differently. For me as the forewoman, it was processing the material and the evidence I was seeing. It was processing it and providing space in my own mind to come up with my own decision, because that's still my own individual decision, not that of the other jurors around the room. Then still, when there's silence in the room and everybody's is sort of staring at the walls, how do we continue to plug through the job that we have to come up with a verdict at the end of the day?

I bring up compensation because it was stressful to some people, especially as you keep going and going. There's a sense of hopelessness that we may be a hung jury, or things like that. It's Saturday and people want to get back to work or back to their family lives. Everybody processes that differently.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Would you say that, as a forewoman, your attention to managing the jury gave you a little bit of space to kind of stand aside from the evidence? Do you think that gave you a little bit of—I don't know—protection?

5:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Michaela Swan

No, I would say quite the opposite. I didn't have space to process the decision that I needed to make, because I was worried about the people in the room. I don't know that it's just being a forewoman, maybe that's being a mother, taking care of the needs of people in the room, and knowing, and listening. You become quite tight-knit when you've spent over three weeks together.

There just needs to be a little bit of time. It's an intense situation in a small space. You know, maybe there could be consideration for breaks or time away. You can't just get up and go for a walk by yourself. They say, “Who wants to go for a walk?” and the whole group goes for a walk. You're always supervised. You're supervised when you go to the bathroom if you're at dinner; a sheriff goes with you to the bathroom. There's no time just to be, and not everybody has a coping skill that way. For me, sometimes I just need my own space and that came lying in bed at night awake, which was the only time I was alone.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

We have about seven minutes while Mr. Cozine's video conference link will still be live.

Now that we've done one round, I'm just asking members if you have any very short questions that you'd like to ask.

Mr. Liepert first.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Liepert Conservative Calgary Signal Hill, AB

I have quite a few.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Housefather

Try to keep it down to two or three.