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.