FREDERICTON (GNB) – New Brunswick will hold the first jury selection and full jury trial in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic led to reduced court operations across the country.

The province’s justice system has been preparing for jury selection for the fitness hearing of Matthew Raymond, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 17.

“Being the first jurisdiction in Canada to hold a complete jury trial during the ongoing pandemic is something to be proud of,” said Justice Minister and Attorney General Andrea Anderson-Mason. “When court operations were scaled back it was understood that alternative ways would need to be found to continue to administer justice in a timely manner. With the help of the judiciary, a streamlined process has been developed to ensure the resumption of in-person trials during these extraordinary times.”

Holding a jury trial during the pandemic poses significant challenges due to the high volume of individuals required to conduct the jury selection process, and because jurors must maintain physical distance throughout the duration of the trial.

Several steps have been taken by the Department of Justice and Office of the Attorney General to ensure the hearing can be done safely, including:

  • acquiring larger spaces and creating temporary courtrooms to allow for physical distancing;
  • implementing pre-trial screening for jurors to limit the number of people that must physically attend jury selection;
  • assigning a barcode to jury candidates so they can register through a computer program to reduce the amount of time spent on site during the selection process; and
  • implementing health screening and contact tracing.

“Jury duty is an important pillar of the justice system and is a segment of the law which protects our fundamental rights,” said Anderson-Mason. “All reasonable precautions have been made to adjust to our current realities and make it safe for people to play their part in ensuring the fair, efficient administration of justice.”

Not everyone who is called for jury duty will be selected to serve as a juror, but under normal circumstances those who are summonsed must be present for the selection process. Those who fail to appear can be held in contempt of court and may face a fine of up to $1,000, or any other penalty that a judge may impose in contempt proceedings.