Tell Us Your Side… We Handle It
Criminal & DUI Lawyers, including:
Three Former Crown Prosecutors

How Is A Jury Selected In A Canadian Criminal Case?

I’d like to explain today a little bit about how jury selection happens in Canada. How that procedure happens and let’s pretend, assume that you have elected trial by Judge and jury. So what’s going to happen on your first day of trial there’s going to be, there might be other jury selections going on that day as well so maybe as many as 200 people are going to be summoned to court that day to be potential jurors and I’m going to give you an example of a recent case we did to show you how this procedure happens. 

Incidentally on September 19th, I believe it was 2019 very recently the Parliament changed the jury selection process. There is no longer what are called peremptory challenges and I handle that topic in a different video which I encourage you to watch. 

So here’s how it happens going forward and in a recent jury trial we did. So those 200 people for example they will be in a totally separate room by video in the same court house and the accused and Judge and Crown will be in the main court house. In this particular case and it may be slightly different procedure in different cities but these are the basics. The Judge addressed that panel of 200 people and kind of explained to them what was going on and said look a few of you are going to be brought in at a time until we select 12 jurors. Once you go in you can explain to me in open court whether you have financial hardship, employment issues, or health issues. These types of hardship issues which would prevent you from sitting on a jury. If it’s embarrassing to you to say that in open court you can write me a note. Just say for example the person was a victim of crime and didn’t think they’d be impartial and write a note to that effect. 

So in this particular case they brought in five people at a time and one of them would come forward at a time and the Judge would ask them look is there any reason you can’t sit on the jury and some of the people would give reasons and there would be a discussion with the Crown, defence counsel and the Crown as to whether they should sit on the jury or whether there is true problems for them sitting on it because of health reasons, hearing, what not and if they were acceptable, they had no reasons they became juror number one effectively and this process just continued until you’ve selected twelve jurors. It’s a very quick process. It’s a matter of the Judge asking a few questions about hardship. If there’s no hardship and the person can sit on the jury then the defence counsel is not allowed to challenge them. Neither is the Crown. 

There are some exceptions of course, you know for example let’s say a particular jury member was an accused brother that the Crown knew and there was some new Crown well the Crown would be able to challenge them. There’s also challenges which have to be brought in advance by application like for pretrial publicity. Let’s say there has been extensive publicity in your case which is biasing jury members then you might be able to question some of the jurors or let’s say there is an indigenous accused or black accused you are allowed to ask each jury member, each potential member whether they are biased against a person, a black person or indigenous and the Judge would try that issue and say no that person is biased or they are acceptable but the bottom line these challenges we used to have where the accused could simply say challenge for a number of reasons is gone. That’s gone and I cover that in another video. So it’s a very simplified procedure now. It happens very quickly. It’s not like the U.S. where they have an extensive list called the voir dire and all sorts of questions. We don’t have that in Canada unless it’s pretrial publicity or a black accused or indigenous accused and again very simple questions. It’s very short. It takes a short amount of time. So that’s it in a nutshell and if you’re called for jury duty it can be an interesting experience. Most of you probably don’t want to sit at a jury but I encourage you it’s an important Canadian right for an accused and it’s sometimes interesting for people to sit on juries as well.

Talk to us. We can help.
GET A FREE CONSULTATION
Watch with audio
Watch our video. Get to know us.