FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa September 28, 2022 – Bill S-206, legislation to support juror mental health, sponsored in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Michael Cooper (St. Albert-Edmonton), is set to become law. This afternoon the Bill passed third and final reading stage in the House of Commons with unanimous support. The Bill, introduced by Conservative Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, had passed the Senate last December, also with unanimous support.
The Bill carves out a narrow exception to the jury secrecy rule under section 649 of the Criminal Code. It will allow former jurors suffering from mental health issues to disclose all aspects of their jury service with a medical professional bound by confidentiality. Currently, jurors are prohibited from disclosing any aspect of the deliberation process with anyone, even a medical professional.
This was identified as a major impediment to the wellbeing of former jurors in a House of Commons Justice Committee study on juror supports. The Bill implements a key recommendation of the Committee’s 2018 unanimous report, which is modeled after a law in the Australian State of Victoria.
The Bill will now be sent to the Governor General to receive Royal Assent.
MP Cooper issued the following statement:
“Jury service can have a significant impact on one’s wellbeing and mental health. “The jury secrecy rule makes it difficult for former jurors suffering from mental health issues to get the help that they need. That is because it is a Criminal Code offence to talk about what is often the most stressful aspect of jury service, the deliberation process, with anyone, even a medical professional.
“This Bill will help former jurors get the help that they need by being free to confer with a medical professional, bound by confidentiality, about all aspects of jury service. At the same time, the Bill protects the integrity of the jury secrecy rule.
“After five years, four bills and three Parliaments, I am pleased that this legislation has finally passed all legislative stages and will become law. This minor amendment to the Criminal Code will have a major impact in supporting juror mental health.
“I am grateful to my parliamentary colleagues for their unanimous support.”
Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu issued the following statement:
“I am pleased that the House of Commons voted to pass this important bill. The Canadian Parliament finally recognizes the essential role played by jurors in our justice system. “This new law will allow jurors to perform their civic duty with confidence.”
Mark Farrant, Founder and CEO of the Canadian Juries Commission, issued the following statement:
“Jury duty is essential to the administration of justice in Canada. Jurors perform a vital service and without them there would be no justice. For some jury duty is extremely rewarding, but for others it can be distressing and traumatic.
“Bill S-206 is a small amendment to the Criminal Code that will make an enormous difference in the lives of jurors post trial, allowing them to talk freely with a mental health practitioner. We applaud and support this long overdue legislation!”