A jury trial being scheduled for February 15 will require the closure of the Roy Sugloo Arena for several days to select the jurors, costing the GNWT between $7,500 and $9,500.
Renting the facility and covering the costs of covering and uncovering the ice will be at least $3,800 for one day and $5,800 for two days, explains GNWT Department of Justice communications advisor Sue Glowach, who noted the arena was needed to be able to do the process within Covid-19 restrictions. The arena would be closed for two days to allow for the ice to be covered and would take an evening to uncover and ensure the ice is safe for skating, so at most the arena could be closed for four days.
“The importance of fair, open and timely trials means that proper facilities are required to ensure that protections and processes set out in the Constitution and the Criminal Code are observed,” she said. “Unfortunately, both Covid-19 and a small number of facilities of sufficient size and availability limits the number of facilities that can be used for a trial such as this.
“The Supreme Court has consulted with the Chief Public Health Officer to ensure that current public health orders are being followed and is making arrangements that balance the principles of fair, open and timely hearings and the protection of all persons who must attend.”
Noting the entire trial is scheduled for the Midnight Sun Complex, Glowach added the trial portion will be held in the Community Hall. Prior to the pandemic, jury selection was held at the Community Hall and trials were held at the Inuvik Courthouse.
She noted this was the first time the arena would be used for jury selection, though arenas have been used for the purpose elsewhere in the NWT.
Concerns about the missed time for athletes was brought up during Town Council’s Nov. 25 regular meeting.
“There’s already a lack of options in Inuvik for kids to play,” said deputy mayor Paul MacDonald. “The pool is closed, the squash courts are by appointment, the gym is by appointment, and it’s the times we live in. But shutting down the entire rink surface and interfering with those user groups is something I am concerned about.”
Glowach said the selection needed to be open and in total 300 people were being summoned for jury duty — and all of them needed to be in the room at the same time.
“Potential jurors are randomly selected from the pool and then juror names are drawn randomly by the clerk in court at the time of selection,” she explained. “All potential jurors have the same chance of having their name drawn and, therefore, must be in attendance in the event that they are called.
“Additionally, at the opening of each jury trial, there are processes that are observed to ensure that potential jurors understand the nature of the case and can observe some initial formalities of the process. For obvious reasons, it is important that all involved hear and see the same process.”
She noted that breaking the group up into smaller sections would require the opening instructions and explanation of the case to be repeated for each group, which would mean the jury selection would take a lot longer and would make it difficult to actually complete a trial in a week.
Other councillors expressed support for letting the courts use the arena.
“I think giving up a couple days of ice time for the administration of justice is valid,” said Coun. Alana Mero. “If the trial is going ahead at this time, it’s for something serious.
“I would hate to see the court lose jurisdiction because we put skating ahead of justice and ahead of the victims.”
In the event the court sits and either the Crown or Defense changes their position on the trial, either by guilty plea or stay of proceedings, the costs of renting the arena would still be paid by the GNWT.