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Supreme Court affirms constitutionality of change to jury selection procedure

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the constitutionality of a key legislative change to the jury-selection process.

In a ruling from the bench today, the high court said scrapping so-called “peremptory challenges” amounted to a purely procedural change, one that applies retrospectively.

Peremptory challenges are a mechanism that allowed lawyers for either side to dismiss a certain number of prospective jurors without an explanation.

In January, Ontario’s Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the constitutionality of the decision to drop them.

However, the appeal court also found that anyone who chose to be tried by a jury before the new rules took effect in September 2019 was entitled to proceed with peremptory challenges, even if the trial begins after that date.

As a result, many jury trials that unfolded in the time between the implementation of the new rules and the appeal court’s ruling could have potentially been overturned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press


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