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Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the government is reviewing the jury selection process to ensure Indigenous persons are not being shut out. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) The Liberal government wants to move swiftly on reforms to ensure more Indigenous people are represented on juries as anger builds across the country over the acquittal of a Saskatchewan farmer in the death of a young Cree man.

Questions have been mounting about the composition of the jury that found Gerard Stanley not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Colten Boushie on Friday. Some observers say the process was biased because several Indigenous persons were kicked out of the juror selection pool.

CBC News has not independently determined that was the case.

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, defence lawyers and Crown prosecutors can exclude people from a jury without giving any reason through what are called "peremptory challenges." Critics say the long-standing procedure can lead to discrimination against potential jurors — and can deliver a jury that is biased or lacks understanding of Indigenous cultural and social customs.

Today, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said changes could be coming soon.

"We are looking at peremptory challenges. We are going to consider how we can utilize the expertise in this room and across the country, about how we can substantially improve the criminal justice system and the jury selection process," she said.

The Justice department already had started a study of peremptory challenges, but the Boushie case and the resulting heightened public scrutiny of the Indigenous experience in the justice system have put the issue on the front burner. Not guilty verdict

Weekend protests were staged across the country after Stanley was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Boushie, a resident of the Red Pheasant First Nation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — who has been facing criticism for weighing in on the jury’s not guilty verdict by saying the criminal justice system must "do better" — said today the government will take steps to address "systemic issues."

He said it’s not right that Indigenous people are over-represented in Canada’s prisons and under-represented on jury panels.

"We have much we need to do together to fix the system in the spirit of reconciliation. That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing," he said.

Justice Canada’s website points to over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system as both victims and offenders, noting that Indigenous adults represent 4.1 per cent of the of the total Canadian adult population — but 26 per cent of of adults in federal custody.

The reasons include social and economic factors, a lack of access to services and supports, intergenerational trauma and discrimination in the justice system itself, according to the department’s website. Deck stacked?

Before Friday’s verdict, angry members of the Boushie family said that all the Indigenous-looking jury candidates were challenged and excluded by Stanley’s defence team.

"The deck is stacked against us … Where is the First Nations’ say in this? We don’t have a voice," said Boushie’s uncle, Alvin Baptiste, of the juror selection process.

In trials where the accused could be sentenced to a term of more than five years, the prosecution and defence teams are each allowed twelve peremptory challenges. They are allowed up to 20 if it’s a trial on charges of treason or first degree murder, but only four for offences that could lead to a sentence of less than five years.Justice Canada, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics do not have data on the number of Indigenous people who have served on juries relative to non-Indigenous Canadians. Old-fashioned stereotypes Niigaan Sinclair, a professor in the […]

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