Criminal Law and Supreme Court; McLachlin J.
An aboriginal by the name of Victor Daniel Williams, was charged in the year 1993 with the robbery of a pizza parlour. He was elected a trial by judge and jury where he pleaded not guilty to the crime. His defence was one of mistaken identity. Nevertheless the jury convicted him of robbery . At his first trial, Williams applied to question potential jurors for racial bias under s. 638 of the Code. In support of his application, he filed materials alleging widespread racism against aboriginal people in Canadian society and an affidavit which stated, in part, “[I] hope that the 12 people that try me are not Indian haters”. During the second trial, attempted to challenge the use of s.638 of the CCC once more, however was dismissed. Afterwards Williams argued that his rights under the grounds of sections 7, 11(d) and 15(1) from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, had been violated, given that he was denied the right to challenge potential jurors for cause to determine whether they displayed a racial bias against aboriginals. This resulted in the case being moved up from the British Colombia Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Racial Bias: The issue throughout the first trial was whether or not evidence of extensive bias facing people of aboriginal decent would raise the potential occurrence of partiality within jurors involved in the trial. Esson C.J. and the Crown argued that Williams request for a challenge for cause was not valid because not enough proof was present to show that jurors would deliver a verdict based off of personal opinions rather than evidence pre...
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...feel towards the accused since he is a native person. In the end, the jury convicted Williams but then he appealed to the Court of Appeal on the issue that the challenge for cause was not upheld and swayed the decision making process during the trial.
Justice B. McLachlin presided over the case when it was brought to the Supreme Court of Canada. She stated that there ‘was ample evidence that this widespread prejudice [against aboriginals] included elements that could have affected the impartiality of jurors […] and that this widespread racism has translated into systemic discrimination in the criminal justice system”. Justice McLachlin also stated that the trial judge should have allowed Williams to enforce the challenge for a cause against potential jurors and that the accused did not receive the fair trial with an impartial jury that he was entitled to.
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