On Thursday, the Saskatchewan government announced a new program to provide emotional support for jurors in the province. For one man who sat through a heinous trial, he says it’s a step in the right direction.
Dan Cozine served on the jury for a fatal child abuse case in 2016. Since then, he says getting back to every day life has been difficult.
“When they show you 8×10 glossy photos of an autopsy of a four-year-old and you have to look at it, those are difficult moments,” Cozine said. “I remember coming home and sitting down for supper with my wife and the first thing she said was ‘Who do you get into contact with for counselling?'”
At the time, no post-trial support program existed for jurors in Saskatchewan, so Cozine was left to his own devices. After seeking professional help, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“I started to realize I’m not alone in this and I should start to seek out something,” he said.
Cozine reached out to the minister of justice and just this week, the province’s new program was announced. It’s designed to support jurors and provides up to four visits with a medical professional and will be available in 24 communities.
“I was quite excited about it,” he said. “The last conversation I had with them was quite a while ago so I didn’t know how things were progressing, but I was very happy with the announcement.”
“We have a history in the province of jurors having a real difficult time, especially if they’re in a trial with particularly graphic or unpleasant evidence or a trial where there is traumatic situations,” Don Morgan, Justice Minister and Attorney General, said. “We’re hoping that it gives some comfort and assistance to the jurors that we’ve got working for us in the province.”
Saskatchewan now joins Alberta and Ontario as the only provinces to implement juror support programs.
Mark Farrant is a mental health advocate from Ontario. He was diagnosed with PTSD after serving as a juror in a gruesome murder trial in Toronto.
He started the 12 Angry Letters campaign, bringing together former jurors who’ve struggled with mental health issues as a result of difficult trials.
They’ve been pressing the federal government to implement a national standard for post-trial mental support.
“I think there is a federal responsibility here to set a national standard for juror support and mental health and counselling, because the jury as an element of the justice system sits within the Criminal Code of Canada which resides federally,” Farrant said.
Farrant added the House of Commons Justice Committee is now studying the issue of juror support, mental health and PTSD. He hopes a the committee will be making a recommendation for national standardization.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Katy Kamkar echos that sentiment, saying a national standard would help all Canadians.
“Having support in place and knowing this ahead of time can really also add a protective factor and make us feel less vulnerable, less helpless and less powerless,” Kamkar said.
For now, Cozine says it’s a step in the right direction and hopes others will benefit from this new support.