GORE BAY – No final decision has been made by the province for the location of jury trials on Manitoulin Island during the pandemic, after the Town of Gore Bay offered its community hall to the province for trials at a reduced rate.
Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) told the Recorder in an email earlier this week, “throughout the COVID-19 emergency and recovery our government has been working with justice partners to keep the judiciary, jurors, court staff, litigants and witnesses safe and maintain the administration of justice across our province.”
“The ministry continues to work with the Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) to plan for upcoming jury trials,” said Mr. Gray. He explained, “in a notice posted January 13, 2021, the SCJ extended the suspension of jury trials until at least May 3, 2021. The court has directed that no new jury selection will commence during this period.”
“In some courthouses there is not adequate space to maintain physical distancing during all aspects of jury proceedings, once jury trials resume,” continued Mr. Gray. “In these instances, movement of some functions of jury proceedings to another court or temporary off-site location may be required. The ministry is working with the judiciary to determine where relocation of jury proceedings is indicated.”
“The ministry is aware of the potential impacts of relocating jury trials, especially for Indigenous communities,” continued Mr. Gray. “It is a priority to ensure that—where possible—jury proceedings can remain within the jurisdiction.”
“Gore Bay has been identified as a location where there is currently not adequate space to host jury trials and relocation of matters may be required, once jury trials resume,” said Mr. Gray. “Temporary off-site space is being investigated within the District of Manitoulin. No other court matters in Gore Bay are identified for relocation at this time.”
Mr. Gray added, “all off-site locations will undergo health and safety assessments by the Public Services Health and Safety Association and security assessment by local police services.”