The Supreme Court of Canada’s Fall session begins this upcoming Monday, October 6th. The Court’s first case will be Her Majesty the Queen v. Clifford Kokopenance.
The case considers the role of jury selection, and whether the representativeness of a jury can be challenged under the Charter. Mr. Kokopenance, an Aboriginal person from Kenora, Ontario, was charged with second-degree murder in a stabbing death. His trial’s jury was composed from a 2008 jury roll from Kenora, which consisted of 699 potential jurors, of whom, 29 were First Nation on-reserve residents (4.1% of the jury roll). At that time, between 30.2-36.8% of Kenora’s population was First Nation on reserve persons, with 21.5%-31.8% being adults. The jury was ultimately selected from a panel list of 175 jurors, only 8 of whom were on-reserve First Nation residents (4.5%). The jury selected ultimately did not include any on-reserve First Nation residents.
Mr. Kokopenance was convicted of manslaughter by the jury. Prior to sentencing, Mr. Kokopenance’s counsel became aware of the irregularities in the composition of the Kenora jury roll regarding representativeness. However, the trial judge declined to adjourn sentencing in order to hear a mistrial application. On appeal, Mr. Kokopenace argued that the jury was selected from a jury roll that, because of the process used to prepare it, inadequately ensured representative inclusion of Aboriginal on-reserve persons. As a result, he argued that his section 11(d), 11(f) and 15 Charter rights were denied. He also argued that according to the Juries Act, his jury was improperly composed, and that he was accordingly entitled to a new trial. The Ontario Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, which the Crown has appealed to the Supreme Court.
The case will no doubt render an interesting decision, which will kick off the Fall Session of the SCC. Other interesting upcoming cases include: Taypotat (October 9, equality rights), City of Saguenay (October 14, freedom of religion/ religious neutrality of the state), Carter (October 15, assisted suicide), and Nur (November 7, mandatory minimum sentences). A full list of upcoming Fall 2014 Supreme Court cases can be found HERE.