September 2013 – March 2015
Debwewin Jury Review Implementation Committee
The name Debwewin was given by Elder Barney Batise, a respected Nishnawbe Aski Nation Elder and former Chief of Matachewan First Nation. Debwewin is the Ojibway word for truth. Elder Batise explained that he could not find an equivalent name for jury in Ojibway but, given the nature of the Implementation Committee’s mandate, Debwewin was an appropriate option. He explained that this word is capable of encompassing two meanings: the principle of truth and the role of a jury, which is to seek truth.
Elder Batise explains that the Eagle Feather is an appropriate symbol to use as the logo as it represents truth, wisdom and courage. He explains the teaching that the Eagle is wise enough to know that a change is needed and seeks the courage to execute change.
The Honourable Madeleine Meilleur
Attorney General of Ontario
720 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2K1
In accordance with the reporting requirements outlined in the terms of reference, please accept our interim progress report. On behalf of the Debwewin Jury Review Implementation Committee, we would like to thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to the implementation of the recommendations made in the report, entitled First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries, released in February 2013.
The underrepresentation of First Nations Peoples on Ontario juries has been a longstanding issue and is one that has been of utmost importance and concern for many First Nations citizens and leaders across Ontario.
Since the inception of the Debwewin Jury Review Implementation Committee, we have visited with First Nations communities across the province, met with citizens, leaders, Elders, and justice workers to determine the best way forward on this issue, while remaining respectful and open to all opinions and views.
We have built relationships with these communities and we continue to engage and encourage open dialogue with the hope that our work will make lasting change.
Working in partnership with First Nations communities, it will be a significant achievement when First Nations Peoples are better represented in the jury system and their voices are heard in a fair and representative justice system that is inclusive of everyone in this province.
Co-chair, Debwewin Jury Review Implementation Committee
Deputy Grand Chief, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Co-chair, Debwewin Jury Review Implementation Committee
Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of the Attorney General
The Debwewin Jury Review Implementation Committee has been in existence for over a year and has taken action on a number of the Honourable Frank Iacobucci’s recommendations. Our focus has been on identifying practical solutions to remove barriers to First Nations peoples’ participation in the jury system and to strengthen the relationship between Ontario and First Nations communities on justice matters.
As an important first step, Debwewin has been working to create strong foundational relationships with First Nations communities to foster a collaborative and balanced approach to the work being undertaken on the recommendations. One key focal point of the Iacobucci Report is the state of the relationship between the Ontario justice system and Aboriginal Peoples. The Iacobucci Report highlights the need to enhance relationships between First Nations and the Ministry of the Attorney General through a government-to-government relationship. Our work to date has been mindful of rebuilding those relationships.
At the beginning, I think all of the members of Debwewin, including myself, wondered how we would tackle the challenge of implementing the 17 recommendations made in the Iacobucci Report. Over time, the group has become more familiar and cohesive, I reflected on the following phrase: when you rub shoulders, the rough edges come off. I feel that as members of the committee begin to learn from and work with each other, we are building upon our strengths to move forward.
Indigenous cultural values and teachings guide Debwewin’s work. The Co-Chairs have shown great leadership and deserve a lot of credit for the way they lead us. The non-Indigenous members of the committee show a deep appreciation of our values. A guiding teaching that we follow throughout our work is – take the time to build it right. We also are committed to being courageously innovative while maintaining our cultural values in our work.
One of Debwewin’s big accomplishments was creating the new Aboriginal Justice Division. I am so happy that I was part of the hiring process for Kimberly Murray. This is the first time that a non-governmental person was part of a hiring process so including me in that process speaks to the cooperation we have with our government. The fruits of our work come out in the actions we take, the relationships we are building with our government, and the government’s willingness to work with us. Working together using our minds and hearts is the best way forward.
In August 2011, the Honourable Frank Iacobucci was appointed by Order-in-Council to carry out an Independent Review and make recommendations to:
In February, 2013, the Honourable Frank Iacobucci released his report entitled First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries (“Iacobucci Report”). He made 17 recommendations to address the systemic exclusion of First Nations people living on-reserve from the Ontario jury rolls. Translated versions of the Executive Summary are available in Mohawk, Ojibway, Cree and Oji-Cree.
Upon receipt of the report, then Attorney General John Gerretsen immediately responded to the first two recommendations by establishing an:
In accordance with Recommendation 1, the Implementation Committee (now called “Debwewin”) is made up of a substantial Aboriginal membership, government officials and the judiciary. The members provide a range of perspectives, experiences and approaches to justice matters with the aim of creating the foundation for a renewed, collaborative relationship between the Ministry of the Attorney General and Aboriginal Peoples within Ontario.
“As this Report will demonstrate, there is not only the problem of a lack of representation of First Nations peoples on juries that is of serious proportions, but it is also regrettably the fact that the justice system generally as applied to First Nations peoples, particularly in the North, is quite frankly in a crisis. If we continue the status quo we will aggravate what is already a serious situation, and any hope of true reconciliation between First Nations and Ontarians generally will vanish. Put more directly, the time for talk is over, what is desperately needed in action.”
Honourable Frank Iacobucci
The Ministry of the Attorney General establish an Implementation Committee consisting of a substantial First Nations membership along with Government officials and individuals who could, because of their background or expertise, contribute significantly to the work of the Implementation Committee. This Committee would be responsible for the oversight of the implementation of the below ecommendations and related matters. In view of the importance and urgency of the matter, I recommend that the Committee be established as soon as practically possible.
The Attorney General establish an Advisory Group to the Attorney General on matters affecting First Nations and the Justice System.
After obtaining the input of the Implementation Committee, the Ministry of the Attorney General provide cultural training for all government officials working in the justice system who have contact with First Nations peoples, including police, court workers, Crown prosecutors, prison guards and other related agencies.
The Ministry of the Attorney General carry out the following studies for eventual input by the Implementation Committee:
The Ministry of the Attorney General create an Assistant Deputy Attorney General (ADAG) position responsible for Aboriginal issues, including the implementation of this Report.
After obtaining the input of the Implementation Committee, the Ministry of the Attorney General provide broader and more comprehensive justice education programs for First Nations individuals, including:
With respect to First Nations youth, in addition to having a youth member on the Implementation Committee, the Implementation Committee should request that the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth facilitate a conference of representative youth members from First Nations reserves to focus on specific issues in the relationship between youth, juries, and the justice system, addressed in this report. The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth should prepare a report on that conference; prior to submitting the report to the Implementation Committee the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth should consult with PTOs and other First Nations associations.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, undertake a prompt and urgent review of the feasibility of, and mechanisms for, using the OHIP database to generate a database of First Nations individuals living on reserve for the purposes of compiling the jury roll.
In connection with this review, the Ministry of Attorney General and First Nations, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, consider all other potential sources for generating this database, including band residency information, Ministry of Transportation information and other records, and steps that might be taken to secure these records, such as a renewed memorandum of understanding between Ontario and the Federal government respecting band residency information or memorandums of understanding between Ontario and PTOs or First Nations, as appropriate.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, consider amending the questionnaire sent to prospective jurors to:
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, consider implementing the practice from parts of the U.S., that when a jury summons or questionnaire is undeliverable or is not returned, another summons or questionnaire is sent out to a resident of the same postal code, thereby ensuring that nonresponsive prospective jurors do not undermine jury representativeness.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, consider a procedure whereby First Nations people on reserve could volunteer for jury service as a means of supplementing other jury source lists.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, consider enabling First Nations people not fluent in English or French to serve on juries by providing translation services and by amending the jury questionnaire accordingly to reflect this change.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, adopt measures to respond to the problem of First Nations individuals with criminal records for minor offences being automatically excluded from jury duty by:
The Ministry of the Attorney General discuss with the Implementation Committee the advisability of recommending to the Attorney General of Canada an amendment to the Criminal Code that would prevent the use of peremptory challenges to discriminate against First Nations people serving on juries.
In view of the concerns I have heard and the fact that current jury compensation is not consistent with cost-of-living increases, I recommend that the Ministry of the Attorney General refer the issue of jury member compensation to the Implementation Committee for consideration and recommendation.
The Ministry of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Implementation Committee, institute a process that would allow for First Nations individuals to volunteer to be on the jury roll for the purposes of empanelling a jury for a coroner’s inquest.
Barney Batise - 2013–2015
Elder Advisor: Nishnawbe Aski Nation Elder and former Chief of Matachewan First Nation
Sheila Bristo - 2013–2015
Director, Divisional Support, Court Services Division, Ministry of the Attorney General
Amanda Carling - 2014–2015
Métis Lawyer, Legal Education Counsel at the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC)
Alvin Fiddler - 2013–2015
Co-chair: Deputy Grand Chief, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Margaret Froh - 2013–2015
Métis lawyer, Director of Strategic Policy, Law & Compliance, Métis Nation of Ontario
Irwin Glasberg - 2013–2015
Co-chair: Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Policy and Adjudicative Tribunals Division, Ministry of the Attorney General
Diane Kelly - 2013–2015
First Anishinaabe woman lawyer from the Treaty #3 Nation, Former Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty #3
Alison Pilla - 2013–2015
Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy and Planning Division, Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs
Jenny Restoule-Mallozzi - 2013–2015
Legal Counsel for the Union of Ontario Indians
The Honourable Erwin Stach - 2013–2015
Retired Judge, Ontario Superior Court of Justice
Rosella Cornaviera - 2014–2015
Deputy Director, Criminal Policy Group at the Crown Law Office
The Honourable Marc Bode - 2013–2014
Regional Senior Justice, Ontario Court of Justice
Megan Logan - 2013–2014
Youth Representative, The Ontario First Nations Young Peoples Council, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI)
For full bios, visit the website: firstnationjuryreview.ca
Debwewin has held 18 meetings since its inception in September 2013.
Debwewin’s meetings have focused on:
Debwewin has started work on all 17 recommendations and progress towards providing advice to the Deputy Attorney General on each is in various stages.
In the first eighteen months, Debwewin has drawn on its member’s varied experiences and perspectives. Just as is reflected in its composition, Debwewin has aimed to achieve balance in every aspect of its work from the design of its processes, to the location of each meeting, and ultimately, to the advice it provides to the Deputy Attorney General on each of the recommendations.
Process is an important component of Debwewin in its work. The following traditional and contemporary tools and approaches were used in determining how to move forward with its work:
“It has been an honour to work with Co-chair Deputy Grand Chief Fiddler and the Debwewin members to find innovative and enduring approaches to address the Honourable Frank Iacobucci’s recommended improvements to the jury system. The creation of a joint Aboriginal - provincial government implementation committee presents some unique opportunities to foster collaboration and open dialogue among members with different backgrounds and life experience.”
Co-chair Irwin Glasberg
“We have gathered together a skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated group of individuals. I am confident that together we can tackle the issues to address the crisis of First Nations in the justice system. Justice Iacobucci’s recommendations will guide us in our work to ensure that all First Nations can exercise their right to serve on juries.”
Co-chair Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler
As engagement is a key component of Debwewin’s work, it has held meetings in various First Nations communities and urban centers across the province.
From the outset, Debwewin identified ongoing community engagement as a critical aspect of its work. Following cultural protocols, First Nations communities were asked if they would host committee meetings. Open house sessions are then held in each host community. In these sessions, Debwewin invites the community leaders and members to provide input on specific recommendations, present information on community justice programs, and share general concerns about and experiences with the justice system.
Debwewin has also received teachings from local Elders. In developing implementation advice on the recommendations, Debwewin takes community perspectives and knowledge into account.
From September 2013 to the end of March 2015, Debwewin has held open house sessions in the following First Nations communities across Ontario:
Debwewin also met with Aboriginal community members, Elders and leaders in Kenora, Ottawa, Thunder Bay and Toronto.
Community members provided input on implementing the following recommendations:
Community members also raised the following general issues in relation to Aboriginal Peoples and the justice system:
Debwewin is committed to continuing its engagement with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities with respect to the implementation advice it develops for the Deputy Attorney General.
Debwewin has taken action on a number of the recommendations. Several of the recommendations have already been implemented and some are currently in the pilot project stage.
Recommendation 1 has been implemented through the creation of Debwewin. It is now half-way through its three-year mandate to provide advice to the Deputy Attorney General on implementing the Iacobucci Report recommendations.
Recommendation 2 has been implemented through the creation of an Advisory Group to the Attorney General. On September 18, 2014, 12 members were appointed to the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Group to examine important issues affecting Aboriginal Peoples and the justice system.
Co-chaired by Ogichidaa (Grand Chief) Warren White, Grand Council Treaty #3 and Murray Segal, former Deputy Attorney General of Ontario, the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Group will bring Aboriginal and justice sector leaders together to examine key challenges facing Aboriginal Peoples in the justice system and provide advice to the Attorney General on ways to improve the system.
Members of the Advisory Group come from diverse backgrounds and offer a variety of perspectives on the justice system. The group includes current and former Aboriginal leaders, justice educators, legal administrators and agency executives, as follows:
Recommendation 5 directs the Ministry of Attorney General to create an Assistant Deputy Attorney General position responsible for Aboriginal issues, including implementation of the recommendations. In March 2014, Debwewin submitted advice to the Deputy Attorney General on Recommendation 5. After a rigorous recruitment process, on December 17, 2014, the Ministry announced that Kimberly Murray was appointed as the first Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Aboriginal Justice Division.
Ms. Murray is a member of the Kanehsatake Mohawk Nation and was called to the bar in 1995. She was formerly Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. Ms. Murray began her role in April 2015.
Recommendation 7 of the Iacobucci Report calls for the facilitation of a conference for First Nations youth to focus on specific issues in relation to juries and the justice system. In November, 2014, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, in partnership with Feathers of Hope, held the three-day Feathers of Hope: Justice and Juries Youth Forum in Thunder Bay. Over 150 youth attended the conference, with a majority coming from northern First Nations communities.
The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General made a substantial financial contribution for this conference.
Feathers of Hope will issue a formal report where they will make recommendations aimed at improving the justice system for Aboriginal youth in Ontario. Debwewin will consider the report in making its formal recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General.
Recommendation 10 of the Iacobucci Report calls for the consideration of amendments to the questionnaire sent out to prospective jurors to: (a) make the language as simple as possible; (b) translate the questionnaire into First Nations languages; (c) remove threatening wording; (d) enable First Nations elected officials and Elders to be excluded from jury duty; and (f) extend the current five day return period.
To obtain feedback on how to amend the juror questionnaire, Debwewin members convened a focus group in March 2015, made up of former open house session participants. The focus group explored plain language options for amending the questionnaire and removing threatening wording. The focus group’s feedback will inform Debwewin’s future advice to the Deputy Attorney General on this recommendation.
Recommendation 6(d) of the Iacobucci Report calls for the creation of a program that enlists students from Ontario law schools to participate in intensive summer education and legal assistance programs for First Nations people, dealing with the justice system.
In the summer of 2014, Debwewin established a 10-week internship pilot program enlisting two Aboriginal students from Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Lakehead University. One student was placed with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) and the other was placed with Nishnawbe Aski Nation. Both students worked on justice issues pertaining to their host organizations.
The small pilot was a big success. Debwewin is currently considering formal advice to the Deputy Attorney General on how to expand on the pilot project into a sustainable internship program. An expanded pilot program is taking place in the summer of 2015.
Recommendation 17 of the Iacobucci Report calls for the creation of a process that would allow First Nations individuals to volunteer for the coroner’s inquest jury roll.
There are still some First Nations inquests in the districts of Thunder Bay and Kenora that have been postponed due to the lack of First Nations representation on the jury rolls. As a result, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation proposed to pilot a project to reach out to First Nations communities to create a list of First Nations volunteers to be included in the selection process for coroner’s inquest juries. The Ontario government and the Office of the Chief Coroner supported the pilot and a Minister’s regulation was enacted to allow for the volunteer list to be used to ensure jury roll representativeness.
Teams were assembled to visit First Nations communities to enlist volunteers. These teams travelled throughout Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty #3, and the Anishinabek Nation territory hosting community forums where the volunteer process was explained to the Chiefs, Councils, and citizens. To date, the pilot has far surpassed its original goal to find 160 volunteers. As of March 2015, over 400 volunteers have come forward.
Debwewin is committed to maintaining an open, transparent and collaborative approach to developing advice on the implementation of the Iacobucci Report recommendations.
Debwewin has taken a number of steps towards sharing information and providing opportunities for input into its work.
A website has been developed to act as a central hub to share updates on Debwewin’s work. The website provides information on the committee, information on upcoming events and meetings. Most importantly, it provides members of the public with a way to interact directly with Debwewin. Please feel free to contact Debwewin through its website with any feedback or comments. firstnationjuryreview.ca
Many Debwewin meetings include open house sessions. Members of Aboriginal communities are encouraged to participate in discussions relating to the Iacobucci report recommendations. This feedback will help to inform Debwewin’s advice to the Deputy Attorney General on how to effectively implement these recommendations.
Debwewin has made significant progress in gathering information and input on the recommendations. The remaining recommendations are:
Debwewin will continue to travel across the province to seek feedback and input from Aboriginal communities and organizations about first-hand experiences with the justice system.
In the upcoming months, Debwewin will expand its efforts to engage with a broader sector of the Aboriginal population in Ontario. While the primary focus to date has been to engage with First Nations, efforts will be enhanced to reach the urban Aboriginal population, the Métis Nation and Inuit Peoples.
Debwewin understands and values the diversity of Aboriginal Peoples and wants to ensure that opportunities are provided for everyone to have a voice in its work. This inclusive approach will inform and support the implementation of collaborative solutions to the historical exclusion of Aboriginal Peoples from Ontario juries.
An enthusiastic and heart-felt thank you to all the First Nations communities and Aboriginal organizations who have hosted the Debwewin Committee and in particular, all the individuals who have trusted and shared their views in order to help Debwewin make informed decisions.