Senator revives bill to help jurors access mental health supports

·1 min read

OTTAWA — Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu has reintroduced a bill that would allow jury members to seek mental health support from a professional after traumatic experiences during a criminal trial.

Bill S-206 would amend a section of the Criminal Code that currently makes it illegal for jurors to discuss jury deliberations forever, which critics say prevents them from seeking mental and emotional support.

Both Boisvenu and Sen. Lucie Moncion, a supporter of the bill, say this change would help jurors seek support post-trial, as health-care professionals are currently reluctant to help for fear of contravening the expectation of jury secrecy.

Former juror Mark Farrant, founder of the Canadian Juries Commission, says while this amendment to the Criminal Code has been a "victim of circumstance," now is the right opportunity for it to be passed.

Boisvenu introduced the bill in the Senate yesterday, marking the fourth time the proposed legislation has been put before Parliament since 2018, when Conservative MP Michael Cooper introduced a private member's bill.

Cooper's bill died when the federal election was called in 2019 and Boisvenu reintroduced it later that year, but it died again when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August 2020.

It was revived for a third time by Boisvenu, but had not been fully discussed in the chamber before summer break, and Parliament was then dissolved when Trudeau called an election in August.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly reported Boisvenu planned to reintroduce the bill on Thursday.

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