Under-Representation of Indigenous Jurors: Will the SCC Grant Leave to Appeal?


The recent acquittals in the deaths of Coulten Boushie and Tina Fontaine have once again raised questions regarding the denial of justice  for Indigenous people by the Canadian justice system. Concerns surrounding the lack of Indigenous representation on juries have called attention to the use of peremptory challenges, which allow potential jurors to be blocked from being selected without any explanation.

Mr. Cornell’s challenge of the Crown’s use of peremptories failed at the Yukon Court of Appeal in August of 2017. He is an Indigenous man who was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after being convicted of eight counts of an indictment, including the attempted murder of a police officer.

Mr. Cornell’s lawyer, Mr. Tarnow, raised concerns about the Crown’s conduct during the jury selection process, saying that the Crown made “an obvious attempt to keep First Nations people off of the jury.” The Crown prosecutor for the case disagreed, stating that the background of potential jurors was not something he “took into account when deciding whether to exercise a peremptory challenge.”

Mr. Tarnow said that 12 people who were not indigenous ultimately tried his client. He stated in an interview that he plans to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, as it is “a matter of national importance, especially at this very moment.”

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.