Erring on the Side of Ignorance: Challenges for Cause Twenty Years after Parks
(2014) 92 Canadian Bar Review 267
34 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 17, 2015
In 1993, Justice Doherty of the Ontario Court of Appeal crafted what was perhaps the most significant decision on racism in the Canadian criminal justice system of that decade. The twentieth anniversary of the groundbreaking decision in Parks offers an opportune moment to review the case law on challenges for cause to determine to what extent we have advanced the discussion on racism in criminal justice. Are we now more likely to recognize and respond to the harm of racial prejudice in the criminal trials of racialized accused? Have understandings of racism become more sophisticated and nuanced in the context of challenges for cause? In particular, how has the Parks question evolved to reflect the complex and elusive forms of contemporary prejudice in Canada, including subconscious racism? In this article, I argue that the progress we have made in examining the racial prejudices of prospective jurors has been negligible. While some individual judges have engaged in thoughtful and insightful analyses, the vast majority do not grapple with the insidiousness of racism in any meaningful way and reject attempts to deepen the inquiry.
Keywords: Jury Selection; Racism; Criminal Justice System; Challenges for Cause; Racial Bias
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