Thank you to the members of this committee for inviting me to speak here today and for unanimously agreeing to open this study of juror mental health. If I may, I will also remark on the eloquence and sensitivity that each member expressed during your discussions and the vote that brought us here today.
Jury duty is one of the most important civic responsibilities expected of Canadian citizens. Indeed, it is likely the last mandatory service remaining since the abolishment of military conscription. However, I think it is fair to say that Canadians have a conflicted relationship with jury duty. Many see it as an inconvenience, a burden, and a major disruption, rather than accepting the important responsibility that it is.
In January 2014, I was selected as a juror in a first-degree murder trial in Toronto, Ontario. Like a lot of Canadians, I had no experience with the criminal justice system prior to the events of 2014, nor had I even really been in a courtroom. I served as foreman in the deliberations and ultimately delivered the verdict in court.
The trial involved the graphic murder of a young woman, Carina Petrache, by her on-again, off-again boyfriend. She was attacked one morning in the rooming house apartment they shared. Her throat was cut from ear to ear. She was stabbed 25 times and was ultimately set on fire as her murderer attempted to set fire to the basement unit in a vain attempt to bring the building down in flames. His arson efforts failed, and Carina, mortally wounded, was able to vacate the unit, only to die of her massive injuries en route to hospital.
The accused also suffered horrible wounds stemming from the fire, suffering burns to 90% of his body, leaving him grossly facially disfigured and disabled due to amputations. He spent 12 months in a medical coma before being charged. In the courtroom, he was a living ghoul, a reminder of the brutality of the attack, and he spent many hours staring down jurors in an attempt to intimidate and shock.
The trial lasted four months and was made complicated by an NCR defence, which is known as “not criminally responsible”. Hours of testimony from the coroner detailed the graphic murder, including dozens of autopsy photos of the victim, descriptions of her significant and superficial wounds, and articulation of the defensive wounds on hands and feet, which suggested that the assault was excessively violent and unrelenting.
The macabre police video provided a walk-through of the crime scene by moving about the burned basement unit where the assault took place, moving up the burned stairwell, and following a trail of the blood of the deceased, complete with blood splatters, bloody handprints and footprints, and pools of blood up and down the hallway and in the bathroom. Testimony from the fire and emergency response officers on the scene was harrowing and disturbing, especially the testimony of a seasoned fire captain who broke down on the stand, stating that this was the worst thing he'd ever had to endure.
The accused was ultimately found guilty of second-degree murder. The accused later hanged himself in the Toronto West Detention Centre prior to receiving his sentence.
In court as a juror, I took all the evidence in silently, as was my role. As jurors, we ingest the evidence and the facts. We do not interact with it. We are not afforded an opportunity to look away or raise our hands and say to the courtroom,“Turn that off; I've had enough.”
I remember a particularly brutal image being left on our screen during closing arguments for 45 minutes and wondering why this was even necessary. This image was not in any way going to influence my decision-making. At the time, I understood that any stress or sleeplessness and anxiety was my burden to bear in this particular role as a juror. It's part of the job, I reminded myself.
As a juror, you are extremely isolated. You cannot communicate with anyone in any form about the events in court or even really with other jurors. I would leave the court in a trance, not remembering even how I got home. I would stare blankly into space during meetings at work or at home while my three-year old daughter tried desperately to engage with me. My then pregnant wife, who had such an engaged husband during her first pregnancy, now had an emotional zombie in me, unable or unwilling to communicate.
I expected these feelings to subside as I left the courthouse on the day the verdict was delivered. I expected to experience a period of re-acclimatization as I re-entered my life, and then I would be fine. I expected that there would be a thorough discharge and debrief prior to being dismissed, and that perhaps a counsellor would be present who could direct us to services or mental exercises, or indeed talk to us. There was nothing.
My feelings didn't subside. They intensified and deepened. After the trial, I cut off communication with all friends and family, only interacting with colleagues at work, and then only superficially. I became hypervigilant around my kids, refusing to let them walk alone, even a few steps in front of me. I became unable to handle crowds and public spaces. My diet changed. I was unable to look at and prepare raw meat without gagging, something that persists to this day.
Images would haunt me day after day, an unrelenting bombardment of horror. My daughter's red finger painting would hurtle me back to the scene of the crime and I would stare transfixed, seemingly out of space and time. Sometimes I would just start to cry for no reason at all. Intimacy with my spouse was impossible, and I found myself either sleeping downstairs on some kind of vigil, or sleeping in my children's rooms at the foot of their doors, if I even slept at all.
I began to see everything as a potential threat, and even began arming myself with knives “just in case”, I would say to myself, as I would take my children to the park to play. My daughter asked me one day why I was putting a knife in my jacket and I struggled to understand, even myself, why I was doing it, let alone to explain it to a three-year-old. I knew something was horribly wrong with me.
Finally, my family intervened and said that I was ill and I needed to seek help. The first place I turned to was the courthouse, thinking that they would have immediate access to counsellors and services for jurors as a matter of course. I was surprised when my repeated calls went unanswered and finally learned that there were no services from the courts available to me unless they had been issued by a judge. This was the policy in Ontario at the time. Victim services were also not available because, of course, I was not a victim.
So began the dizzying fall into the public health system where it became my responsibility to find a clinician and to be put on a waiting list for psychiatric services, which was almost a year long.
Finally, after almost six months I found a clinic specializing in PTSD, which was my diagnosis, and began paying out of pocket for treatment for cognitive behavioural therapy with a psychologist. Grateful for the treatment, I began thinking that (a) I shouldn't have to be looking for counselling, and (b) that jurors should receive some treatment after serving in difficult trials as part of their service to the community and the country. Jurors should not have to suffer as a result of their civic duty.
I was motivated to do something about it, which began a very long and determined advocacy, resulting in the Ontario Government launching the juror support program, a toll-free crisis line and eight counselling sessions.
I wrote to every attorney general across the country, asking them to adopt a similar program or amend the barriers in the existing programs to match what Ontario had. I was met with resistance, or completely ignored in most cases. Yet I heard from countless jurors from across the country who shared similar experiences and who spoke of the woeful lack of mental health support in their provinces. Some of those jurors had been ill for many years and remain affected to this day.
I was determined to seek a federal standard, which brings us here today. Members of the committee, I want to let you know that treatment works. It's the reason I am sitting here now and talking to you. It works. I'm living proof of that.
Jurors are an important pillar of the justice system. I once said that jurors and first responders are bookends of that system. Jurors close the cases in trial that police and first responders initially answer. We see the same evidence, if not more, and we are all affected by the same horror and tragedy, yet one group receives treatment and support and the other does not.
I hope you will return a recommendation to the government and the justice minister that underscores the critical role jurors play in our justice system, and provide them with the support they deserve to return to their lives.
Thank you, committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
I am Patrick Fleming, and I served as a juror three years ago in a first-degree murder trial that consumed my life for ten months and beyond. The case, R. v. Pan, involved a young woman, Jennifer Pan, from Markham, Ontario, and four accomplices hired to kill Jennifer’s parents in their family home. I live with daily thoughts of this crime: graphic coroner's photos of bullet holes through flesh, the bloody crime scene, and chilling testimonies. As the foreman, I can still hear and see myself reading the guilty verdict to all the accused. I can still hear the screams of the family and friends of the accused in a packed courtroom as I read their verdicts. When my civic duty was done and I was able to go home to my family and return to my “normal” life I pulled into my driveway and expected feelings of relief to wash over me, but something was different. I did not feel at my place of peace. Something was not right.
This experience made me feel alone. I felt isolated, although I was surrounded by my loved ones. I pulled away from my wife, my family, and my friends, during and after this trial. I could not put into words what I was going through emotionally. I had many confused feelings, thoughts, and horrific visions, during and after this trial. I had to prepare myself to return to my place of work the next day after being away for ten long months. I knew I was in need of help but at that time the courts did not offer any assistance, just a thank you for my civic duty and goodbye. I so desperately needed to talk to a professional, someone who could help me work through my feelings and thoughts. I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I feel that all civilians who are chosen to be a juror should be offered mental health support after a trial has ended.
We need assistance getting back to our “normal” life. We are civilians who did not choose this path for ourselves nor are we trained to deal with this type of situation. Being a juror is a monumental job that has had a major impact on my life. I strongly feel that there is a federal responsibility to provide professional assistance to all jurors, in all provinces. I still endorse and believe that one should do their civic duty but one should not pay out of pocket, as I have, to have access to mental health support for doing their part for their country.
I know an individual who has used the Ontario support program for jurors, and he is very grateful that Ontario offers such a program. It has helped him and his family tremendously, and he has asked me today to thank the government for providing that help and support that he needed.
I have also added two pages of bullet points that summarize some of my experiences of the stress of jury duty. I felt isolated from my family and friends. I would distance myself, and I could not share what I was going through. I had overwhelming feelings of guilt from making such a life-altering decision about the defendants' lives. I felt guilty for not being present for my family emotionally and physically. Feelings of loneliness throughout and after the trial are still hard to manage. I had a hard time trying to push down my emotions. I could not feel empathy or sympathy for these victims. I had to be analytical; I had to deal with only the facts of the case, not the emotions. I accomplished this, but I was left dealing with my own emotions by myself.
Again, I want to thank the committee for inviting me here today and thank all of the members of Parliament who have endorsed our advocacy.
Thank you to the committee for allowing me to appear before you today.
I am a first-generation immigrant and extremely proud to be a Canadian citizen. I have the privileges and rights and freedoms this country offers, but with those rights come responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to participate in helping to bring about justice when summoned to do so. Our right to trial by jury depends on the willingness of all citizens to serve, but doing so should not be at the expense of a juror's own mental health.
In 1995, I was the first juror selected for the Paul Bernardo trial. Justice Patrick LeSage advised me the trial would be difficult and there would be graphic material presented as evidence. At that moment I had no way to fully comprehend how bad it would be. Imagine watching young girls being raped and tortured over and over again. You couldn't close your eyes and you couldn't look away because your duty was to watch the evidence. Many days I would go home in a fog, as if heavily medicated. I counted on my husband to care for our children and to assume most household responsibilities as I often had difficulty focusing on tasks after a day in court. Most nights the videos would play in my head over and over again. I had difficulty sleeping. Intimacy with my husband became nonexistent for a long time, even after the trial ended. I became afraid to go outside after dark, and to this day that still affects me. I have extreme distrust of strangers.
At one point during the trial, Justice LeSage had to call a recess on my behalf as I was having severe palpitations due to stress. Yet I was one of the lucky ones. In his 29 years as a judge, Patrick LeSage ordered or recommended counselling for jurors on only two occasions, and the Bernardo trial was one of them. He himself sought counselling after the trial ended. Since I was diagnosed as having PTSD, the counsellor advised services were available to me as long as I required them. While time is a great healer, having access to counselling helped me manage the trauma and anxiety and get back to living my life.
At the time I assumed counselling was provided automatically to jurors in traumatic trials. I came to realize this was not the case when I started reading about Mark Farrant and his mission to ensure that all jurors would be eligible for post-trial support. If it is our duty as citizens to take part in the jury system, then it must be the duty of the courts and the government to ensure that no harm comes to those willing to serve.
Thank you kindly for your time today. I hope the committee will make a strong recommendation to the government and justice minister that a national standard for jury mental health and counselling is necessary, and that all provinces are required to meet that standard.
The case involved the death of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who was under the care of his mother's boyfriend. According to the pathologist, the boy had sustained several serious injuries, including cracked vertebrae, broken bones, and blunt force trauma to the abdomen. These injuries were sustained in the weeks leading up the boy's death.
I know this because I had to sit through an extensive autopsy report with graphic images of the crime scene, and how it was determined throughout the investigative process, specifically the autopsy process.
The trial hit home for me as at the time of the trial I had a two-and-a-half-year-old boy at home. The thought that somebody could do this to a precious child obviously still disturbs me.
The accused was convicted, and to this day I can still hear the cries of the courtroom, the victim's grandfather in tears, reaching over the pews crying, “Thank you, thank you.” The courtroom security abruptly ushered us, the jurors, away from the courtroom, and snuck us out the back tunnel of the courthouse. This was done for our own safety as a riot had broken out in front of the courthouse between family members of the convicted and the victim. I found out about this after I got home and saw it on the news.
Returning to work was difficult. My employer was not very sympathetic to me being away for six weeks, even though I went to work before and after the trial as well as on weekends to try to keep up. It was budget time and everything was due immediately. The culture of this employer was that financial deadlines and commitments were paramount over any other work that had to be done.
My first day back was a fog. It was very strange to me that one day I was sequestered away from my normal life and family, deciding the fate of an individual, attempting to attain justice, and the next day I was in a boardroom meeting about a new computer software program that my employer was implementing.
Within days of the trial, I knew I needed support from a mental health professional. I sought out an EAP program counsellor. She was tremendous. I was fortunate that my employer offered such a program. The follow-up from the trial ultimately led me to leave my employer. The treatment I received—the lack of understanding from my superiors, peers, and upper management—made me feel that I had done something wrong, like I was on vacation or not living up to my job requirements.
I was lucky to have the support of an EAP program and a great counsellor. In time, I came to the realization that I needed to move on from this employer. Personally, the counselling led me down some paths of my own life that I would not have explored without it. These were positive changes and awakenings to my own behaviour.
To this day, I worry all the time that something will happen to my kids, that someone in their life will hurt them the way the victim was hurt. I am super vigilant and accused of being way too overprotective, but knowing what I know, I cannot be too careful with who looks after my kids.
I would do my civic duty again. I believe the justice system in Canada is truly one of the best in the world. I witnessed first-hand the rights of the accused, the judge's constant assurance that the accused should receive a fair and unbiased trial.
Even the best judicial system system in the world can be improved upon. Making post-trial support available for all jurors who need it would close the loop in the jury trial system. Having an extended period of time after the trial to normalize before returning to work would greatly help as well. Creating a robust education package for employers and potentially co-workers of jurors might help as well. Having separate parking areas, break areas, away from the lawyers, families and participants in the trial would also help.
I would like to re-emphasize and encourage you to make post-trial support standard nationwide, to provide help to those who need it, to those who are the backbone of the jury system. It would certainly make it much easier for them to cope with the outcomes, facts, and images they endure to perform their civic duty.
Thank you for your time.
I am honoured to have participated in this process, and I apologize for the emotions.
I've been a member of this committee for the last couple of years. I've been involved with the justice committee for close to 20 years of my political career, and this is one of the most moving testimonies I have heard.
I want you to know that I truly believe that your testimony and what you are doing will make a difference.
Mr. Glew, you said we have the best judicial system in the world, but it can be improved, and this is a gap in the judicial system that definitely needs to be improved at all different levels. One of the reasons I have been so interested in this is that we can contribute to what you, and those working with you, have done. You have identified something that I don't remember being identified before. Your first-hand experience and the first-hand experience of all of you will be invaluable.
Mr. Farrant, you said you wrote to the Ontario government, and then they came up with this program to provide some assistance. You said you wrote to other attorneys general and governments across this country. Some of them replied to you; others didn't.
I don't want to put any pressure on you, but it would be interesting for us to know if you could give us copies of what they said to you. We now want to be involved with this business, and I would be very interested to hear what those different provinces or territories said, or did not say, to you. This underscores the challenges we have on this question. Do you have any comment on that?
Thank you to each of you for having the courage to come to Ottawa today to share your story. As Mr. Nicholson said, I think everyone around this table right now is just in awe of what you've gone through and what you've had to suffer through just for simply doing your civic duty.
None of you are professionals in the justice system. Like every juror across this country, you're ordinary Canadians, plucked out of your ordinary lives and called to do something extraordinary, and you've had to go through a lot. I really want to start off by recognizing that. I truly hope that what we hear today and as this study continues leads us to a place where we make those firm recommendations, those much-needed recommendations. I want to again thank you.
Speaking of recommendations, that's ultimately where we want this report to end up, making recommendations to the . Yes, we realize that under our constitution, the administration of justice does fall under provincial jurisdiction, but we should note that we as federal legislators are responsible for drafting amendments to the Criminal Code, that very same criminal code that contains section 627, which allows judges to provide supports to disabled jurors.
We are responsible for the federal penitentiaries where the offenders who receive guilty verdicts in these gruesome trials often end up. We just completed a study trying to find avenues whereby the federal government can try to impose some sort of a national standard on access to justice, particularly through legal aid.
All of you have testified about the need for strong national standards. In the interest of arriving at a clear recommendation, I was wondering if each of you could just take some time to give us your ideas on what you think that could eventually be and look like.
I'll start with you, Mr. Farrant, please.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you all for being here today and sharing your stories. Your testimony was very compelling and I think it has left an impression on all of us around this table.
We certainly appreciate all that you have done, not only in your jury duty service, but also in taking the time to prepare for this, to come, and to give thoughtful suggestions about how we can improve this for other people who will be jurors in the future. I think it's a testament to your feelings for our country not only to have gone through the jury duty service and to have taken it seriously but also to have taken the time to come here. I appreciate that.
In Nova Scotia where I'm from, I know there are instances of people not showing up for jury duty. The courts have commented that it is an extremely important part of our judicial system. As governments, we need to make sure that we're there to support jurors, so that when they are doing the honourable thing and doing their civic duty, they know they have the support and that we will have their back.
I hope out of this will follow constructive recommendations based on your testimony and the testimony of those witnesses who will follow.
Mr. Farrant, I'd like to start with you. It was touched on a moment ago that some cases will more likely result in the need for support for jurors than will others, particularly gruesome cases, like what you have described here today.
Do you have any suggestions as to how the courts would differentiate between certain cases? Would there be any benefit to, in certain cases, having a mandatory check-in with the jurors on the way out, almost like a post-jury interview, so to speak, to ensure that not only are they aware of all of the services but also that, if they do have problems in the future, there are supports they can come back and utilize?
Thank you all for being here.
I'm not going to repeat what everyone has said, but I certainly concur with what has been said.
I would also say that it seems that everything you have recommended today is so obvious that I can't believe our court systems haven't been doing this prior to now. In politics, sometimes you wonder how this has gone on so long without somebody doing something about it. Thank you for coming forward to make these recommendations.
I think we've covered much of what you're here for, but I'd like to explore something a little different, for which there also may be a need.
Ms. Daenzer, you mentioned the court clerks and the staff who have to go through this on a daily basis. I know someone who was a court clerk and ended up quitting the job, not because of what you said, but because he became so angry, in that particular instance, at people getting off when they shouldn't have gotten off, that sort of stuff.
For a juror, is there an anger that builds up? It's human that I hear or see things on the news that make me angry. Is there an anger that builds up, when you're a juror, that you take away with you and that is in you for the rest of your life? Is that something else that needs to be dealt with?
One of the privileges of being a member of Parliament is that in my short 10 years so far, I've had the opportunity to meet with many first responders and men and women who serve in our armed forces. As you know, within all the ranks of the first responders within our armed forces, great strides have been made over the last several decades in recognizing PTSD, or what they now like to call operational stress injuries.
When I speak to members, whether they work in the ambulance service, the fire service, or the police, they now recognize that early detection of PTSD and early treatment are very necessary to stop the cascading problems that can happen later on. Really, this is about an investment in a valuable member of their crew. It's an investment in a valuable employee who has an incredible skill set, who puts his or her life on the line to help ordinary Canadians.
In light of that, they recognize that if they don't make those investments first and foremost at an early stage, the costs later on, whether it's in a broken marriage or acting out at work, can be quite tremendous in some cases. These first responders, by the way, volunteer to do their jobs. They willingly entered their service. In light of that fact and in light of the incredibly important role that juries and jurors serve, would you not agree that the state has an incredible obligation to support you should you need it?
To those who may argue that it's a cost issue and who quibble over the cost of this, would you not agree with me that this is really an investment in you for your service, so that when you return to society, the later-on costs, whether in a failed relationship or in the costs that you have to deal with personally...? Would you not agree that we have an obligation here? This is our acknowledgement of the service you've given.
I would like to hear from each of you, because I strongly feel that we need as much testimony from you as possible when we're reflecting back on this testimony to make our recommendations. You occupy this unique spot in our society of having experienced something that no one around this table has experienced.
Again, I would like to hear the thoughts of each of you on that particular point, the obligation the state has to you individually for your service.
Thank you to all the witnesses for their testimony.
I know it's very difficult for each of you. All of you talked about the fact that you did receive some help.
In your case, Ms. Daenzer, that was court-ordered and court-provided.
In the rest of your cases, you had to do it on your own.
Obviously, in your case, Mr. Farrant, you lived with PTSD. Your life has changed.
There is no question that for all of you, your lives have changed, in the sense that you will always live with the memories and the horrors of what you endured and witnessed in those trials.
We talked about Ontario having up to eight counselling sessions, and I understand that Manitoba had a process, a debriefing session.
All of you talked about getting help after, but I would be interested in fleshing out a little more what that involved, for you. I understand that everyone's experience is different. Some people are not affected, and some are impacted much more. I would be interested in understanding a little more about what it took, what you went through after the trial to see some semblance of life returning to normal.
First of all, thank you so much. Your testimony was profoundly impactful, I think, on all of us and all Canadians who listened to it. I think we all tried to put ourselves in the shoes of a juror in a case like this, and it's hard to do so. We heard about the issues with intimacy, the issues with being suddenly overprotective of your kids because you just see your two-year-old as that two-year-old, or the issues you had in terms of burying yourself at work because you're just not able to cope with what's happening. I think we were all really helped by what you said.
I want to clarify what I heard. Perhaps one of you can tell me.
One of the things I heard listed was education in advance about the obligations of a juror when you first walk into that courthouse or maybe even in the letter that's sent to invite you to report for jury service, something better than a 1970s movie.
Another was that, during the course of the trial, we need a better separation of the jurors and the victims and their families, and the accused and their families.
Also, in certain circumstances, we need counselling during the trial, or at least it needs to be made very clear that it's available to you at the end of the jury day or outside of service, from a court-appointed person who is privy to the issues, who keeps confidentiality, and who doesn't seek to influence you as jurors.
Further, there is ensuring that the various things you have to do during the course of the trial are understood, meaning that I can totally put myself into your shoes when you're a juror, and then, after you leave the courthouse, you're going back to the office to do six or seven hours of work. It's like you were away in negotiations all day, but you come back, and you have 300 emails that have accumulated during the day that you still have to finish today. Then you have child care, and then you have responsibilities at home that you're never getting to. We heard about the need for something to help with that in terms of either employers being obligated to give full pay in addition to allowing you to have your job back at the end of the trial, or alternatively, if we can't amend labour laws, make sure the pay and the supports we provide, such as day care, are available to jurors.
Number five is that we need a clear debrief at the end of a trial to talk to you, not only about the experience, to get lessons learned from that jury, but also to advise you of all of the counselling and other services that will be available to you post-trial.
Number six, whether it's Ontario's eight counselling sessions, or something even more generous, a clear number of counselling sessions should be available to each and every juror at the end of trial.
Is that basically what you guys are suggesting?