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Making a difference

Editorial Obiter

No matter what your partisan leanings are, there were some heartening elements of the recent provincial election in Ontario. Take voter turnout, which was the highest it had been in nearly 20 years, with 58 per cent of eligible casting ballots. There is a raft of new MPPs, some of whom hold law degrees and bring a vastly varied background to their position in public office. 

Among them, there are lawyers with experience in health care, personal injury, commercial and civil litigation, real estate law, business and international trade law, criminal defence and more. 

The democratic process benefits when there are people with vast and varied experience to shape and guide public policy. This is important now more than ever — the challenges facing elected officials are steeper than in years past. Issues exist and persist. 

This issue of Law Times, for example, features a story on a jury representation report by a judge who was on study leave. The report has attracted the attention of the criminal defence bar.

“The state doesn’t get to select which types of people it wants on a jury. It’s particularly offensive because while white, wealthy homeowners are overrepresented on the jury, the marginalized, racialized [and] impoverished are overrepresented as accused,” says Solomon Friedman, an Ottawa lawyer. Serious stuff.

Outgoing Law Society of Ontario Treasurer Paul Schabas has a valid point that is relevant to all who choose to serve in public office, no matter how they choose to apply their talents. 

“Enjoy it and press on. Press on in meeting the challenges that the society has for us as a profession,” he says.

On June 28, Schabas leaves his role, having influenced some high-profile issues (name change, for one) and lower-profile issues (such as LSO governance) that show how he left his mark on the regulatory body. 

Those who have come into office as MPPs and the new LSO treasurer will have a chance to apply their talents as well. The democratic process can be a beautiful thing.

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A Law Times story this week addresses a proposed amendment to the provincial Juries Act that would repeal the rule that prevents people convicted of an offence from serving as jurors. Do you agree with this change?