Accounting for Law

"Crisis" characterization correct in Iacobucci report

A recently-released report that sheds light on the issue of First Nations people being excluded from the criminal justice system describes the situation as a “crisis” - a characterization Toronto criminal lawyer Tushar Pain agrees with.

Late last month, an independent review investigating the lack of native people participating on jury trials and inquests was released, written by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci.  Read Toronto Star

In his report, Iacobucci found he could not ignore “systemic racism” in the courts, prison and jury process including mistreatment of First Nations inmates in penitentiaries, general disrespect by police and “discriminatory public reaction to First Nations complaints,” the Star reports.

Iacobucci urged the Ontario government to implement 17 recommendations to fix the courts, prison and jury process, and already, Attorney General John Gerretsen has promised to get working on the first two recommendations, the report continues.

“What makes this all the more tragic is that where First Nations people are underrepresented in our jury system, they are overrepresented in the prison population,” says Pain.

“Though I agree that the recommendations may be useful, they are only that - recommendations. Unless they are implemented, they are just ideas."

Gerretsen has said he wants to study the report before considering the other 15 recommendations, the Star report says.

“Though the Attorney General has indicated that he will be reviewing the report, he has been very careful to decline to adopt Iacobucci's characterization of this matter as a 'crisis,’” says Pain.

“To admit it is a crisis is to admit it must be dealt with. It seems to me that the government is not prepared to make that commitment - at least not at this time. Of the 17 recommendations made in the report, the AG has only agreed to implement the first two at this point in time. Though it is a start, much more will need to be done.”

Pain says, “The government needs to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and make a commitment to changing it. Only time will tell if Iacobucci's report will have made any difference.”

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