Jury duty has never been popular thing to do. Jury trials are often long, boring, and convoluted – and with personal anxieties over health and financial issues mounting — jury duty will become even more unpopular, especially since jury pay remains persistently low and uneven across the country.
As the courts in Ontario slowly start to re-open, civil jury trials will resume. According to a recent CBC article, a survey found that the only thing Canadians rated worse than jury duty was volunteering at a hospital during the pandemic.
What happens when you receive a jury summons
When people receive jury summons, their first reaction is to think of ways to get out of it. Arguably, this is because most people find jury work to be underpaid. Jury duty remuneration needs to be more competitive. It should no longer be a token “thank you” payment. As of now, jury duty pay does not even match minimum wage so it is understandable that most people are reluctant to report to jury duty. Many people make more than minimum wage at their jobs so even a pay increase up to minimum wage might not be enough.
Jury member compensation
Sadly, the federal government has announced that it has no intention of increasing jury member compensation. In our opinion this is a serious error. Some civil jury trials can last upwards of a month or more. That is a significant pay cut for many jury members whose families will also be impacted. This obviously sours a jury members’ attitude towards the trial which can deeply impact the outcome of a trial. They may, for example, have a certain bias against a plaintiff in a motor vehicle accident matter which could hurt their claim. Juries are already notoriously cheap towards plaintiffs in the first place. The fact that jury members do not wish to be there will make things worse.
Jury pay across the country
According to the CBC article, Juror compensation is a patchwork across Canada and most jurors receive less than the minimum wage:
- Newfoundland and Labrador: This is the only province with legislation that stipulates employers must grant a paid leave of absence to employees if they are asked to serve on a jury.
- Nova Scotia: $40 per day, parking is reimbursed and jurors receive 20 cents per kilometre to and from the courthouse.
- Prince Edward Island: $40 per day and travel costs payable at the government employee rate.
- New Brunswick: $20 for a half-day’s attendance and $40 per day for a full day. If a trial lasts longer than 10 days, the fee increases to $40 for each half-day and $80 for each full day.
- Quebec: $103 per day or part of a day. Compensation is increased to $160 beginning on the 57th day of a trial. Jurors in Quebec also can claim expenses for meals, transportation, accommodation, child care and psychological treatment.
- Ontario: No pay for the first 10 days of service, $40 per day thereafter. Jurors are given $100 each day after 49 days.
- Manitoba: $30 a day, starting on the 11th day of service.
- Saskatchewan: $110 for each day. Parking, mileage, meals and dependent care also may be eligible for reimbursement.
- Alberta: $50 per day and travel expenses.
- British Columbia: $20 per day for the first two weeks, $60 per day between day 11 and 49, then $100 per day if a trial lasts beyond 50 days.
- Yukon: $80 per day
- Northwest Territories: $80 per day
- Nunavut: $100 a day for the first five days, then $150 per day starting on the second week.
The psychological impacts of jury duty
Aside from the monetary consideration, jury duty can also be psychologically taxing. The subject matter can be difficult for some to deal with. This is more of a reason for jury members to be paid fairly. Not to mention, jurors are not given any support during, or after, the jury trial. Psychological counselling is not possible as jurors are forbidden from discussing their deliberations at any point in time.