A jury is a group of 12 Canadian citizens selected to try an accused that has been charged with a criminal offence. Any adult Canadian citizen can be considered and selected for jury duty.
An individual is not automatically going to serve as a juror if they receive a jury questionnaire. The jury questionnaire determines eligibility to serve on a jury. Additionally, an individual is not automatically going to serve as a juror if they are called for jury duty, but it is important that they show up to the selection process to determine whether or not they will be a part of the jury.
The Jury Process
Jury questionnaires are mailed to people living in Ontario to determine whether they are eligible for jury duty. Receiving a jury questionnaire is not a summons for jury duty and does not mean that the individual is selected to sit on a jury.
If an inividual is qualified to serve as a jury, they may receive a summons in the mail instructing them to attend the court (or another location) for the jury selection process. When attending court, it is important to bring the summons and government-issued identification, such as a valid Driver's Licence or Passport, health cards are not considered valid identification. Employers are required, by law, to give employees time off of work for the jury selection process, but are not required to pay employees for the time they are on jury duty.
Some poeple who receive the summons may be exempt from serving on a jury due to provincial laws, or if the prosecutor or defence counsel believe there are valid reasons for disqualification. It is important to note that receiving a summons for jury duty does not mean that the individual will be selected to sit on a jury.
Individuals are randomly selected to participate on the jury during the selection process and the judge will provide information about next steps for jury duty. If an individual is not immediately selected, they may be asked to return the following day to repeat the steps. Regardless of if an individual is selected for jury duty or not, they will then be ineligible for serving on a jury for the following three years.
Professions Exempt from Jury Duty
An individual will be exempt from jury duty if they are employed or licensed as a:
- Medical practitioner, coroner, or veterinary surgeon who is actively engaged in practice;
- Police officer;
- Firefighter that is regularly employed by a fire department;
- Superintendant, jailer or keeper of a prison, correctional institution, or lockup;
- Warden of a penitentiary;
- Sheriff or a sheriff's officer;
- Armed forces personnel of the regular forces, special forces, and members of the reserve forces on active service;
- Lawyer (barrister or solicitor) or student-at-law;
- Officer of a court of justice, including paralegals;
- Judge or judtice of the peace; and,
- Member of the Privy Council of Canada, the Executive Council of Ontario, the Senate, the House of Commons, or the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
Individuals who are employed in a profession exempt from jury duty are still required to fill out and return the initial questionnaire.
Serving as a Juror
If an individual is not employed or licensed in one of the exempted professions and is selected to serve on a jury, the judge will provide instructions regarding next steps and the estimated length of the trial. The trial may begin on the same day and can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on the complexity of the case. Jurors rarely stay in a hotel (with expenses paid for), except in situations where deliberations have begun and a decision has not been reached.
There are requirements set in place to ensure a fair trial is in place for the accused. For example, jurors are not allowed to read or watch news related to the trial, have any electronic devices with them, or post information relating to the trial on social media.
Ontario offers free counselling through the Juror Support Program to individuals who have completed juror duty. The individual must provide the location of the court where the jury trial took place, the start and end date of the trial, and the name of the case. Jurors are eligible for up to four one-hour counselling sessions in either English or French, with disability accommodations available. The Juror Support Program can be reached at 1-844-587-6766 or 1-877-338-0275.