New Brunswick

Dennis Oland jury selection shines light on New Brunswick fees

Jury selection for Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial in Saint John has got some people talking about New Brunswick jury fees and whether they're enough.

Some provinces pay higher per diems or require employers to pay jurors' wages

The third day of jury selection for Dennis Oland's second-degree murder trial is getting underway in Saint John on Thursday. 

Dennis Oland, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his father, is scheduled to stand trial, starting on Sept. 16. (CBC)
Only four more people are required — two jurors and two alternates.

Twelve jurors were already selected on Wednesday for the high-profile case.

Oland, 46, is accused of killing his father, prominent businessman Richard Oland, more than four years ago.

There is a publication ban on any information that would identify the six men and six women chosen to serve on the jury so far.

There is also ban on the reasons why 130 other people were excused Wednesday by Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Walsh, or rejected by either the lawyers or the two so-called triers — citizens selected from the jury pool to assist with the process.

Richard Oland, 69, was found dead in his Saint John office on July 7, 2011. (Canadian Yachting Association)
But on Tuesday at Harbour Station, the judge outlined for prospective jurors some of the reasons they might be excused, including health problems, language barriers, and relationships with people involved in the case.

Financial hardship is another reason laid out in the provincial Jury Act — and an important one in New Brunswick, according to Nicole O'Byrne, an associate law professor at UNB.

Employers in the province are not required to pay employees' wages while they serve on a jury.

'Quite a low amount of remuneration'

Jurors are paid a fee, but it's usually only $20 for a half-day and $40 for a full day. If the trial lasts 10 days or longer, those fees increase to $40 and $80 respectively. Jurors may also be paid compensation for meals and travel expenses.

Nicole O'Byrne, an associate law professor at the University of New Brunswick, says jury fees in the province are "on the low side" compared to some other provinces. (CBC)
"Those amounts haven't increased in many, many years," said O'Byrne, although Department of Justice officials could not immediately say exactly how long.

The fees are "intended to supplement people so that it won't be such a hardship, but that is quite a low amount of remuneration," particularly for lengthy trials, O'Byrne said.

The Oland trial, which is scheduled to start on Sept. 16, is expected to last 65 days.

O'Byrne says New Brunswick's jury fees are "on the low side" compared to some other provinces.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, employers are required to pay an employee's regular wages for the duration of a trial.

It might indicate that people have been willing to serve on juries when called in New Brunswick.- Nicole O'Byrne , associate law professor

Meanwhile, Quebec compensates its jurors $103 a day for the first 56 days, and then $160 daily until the end. 

Jurors also receive a supplementary allowance of $52 if the deliberations continue into the evening and $103 if they continue until the next day.

In addition, Quebec jurors may be paid for meals, travel and accommodation. They are also are entitled to a weekly allowance for childcare or for the care of other people under their responsibility and may receive an allowance of up to $325 for five hours of psychological therapy.

O'Byrne says New Brunswick's lower rates "might speak to the civic mindedness of the average New Brunswick citizen.

"It might indicate that people have been willing to serve on juries when called in New Brunswick and in other jurisdictions they may have had to bring in things like childcare and higher fees in order to get people to serve."

Province Fees
N.L. Employer required to pay regular wages
P.E.I. $25 per day
Nova Scotia $40 per day
New Brunswick Day 1-9: $20 for half-day, $40 for full day, Day 10-end: $40 for half-day, $80 for full day
Quebec Day 1-56: $103, Day 57-end: $160
Ontario Day 1-10: $0, Day 11-49: $40, Day 50-end: $100
Manitoba Day 1-10: $0, Day 11-end: $30
Saskatchewan $80 for each day or part of 
Alberta $50
B.C. Day 1-10: $20, Day 11-49: $60, Day 50-end: $100

Steven Penney, a law professor at the University of Alberta, who has written a textbook on criminal procedure, which includes a chapter on jury selection, agrees jurors are typically not paid "anywhere near their fair market value."

But he's not convinced fees should increase.

"The idea is not that we're going to compensate people for their time, based on the loss of income that might occur as a result of having to participate in a jury. That's a pretty nominal amount, obviously," said Penney.

"You know, it might cover some expenses and provide some kind of compensation, but the general thought has always been that this is something people have a kind of obligation to help with if they can, as part of our criminal justice system."

Steven Penney, a law professor at the University of Alberta, says jury fees are not meant to replace lost income. (University of Alberta)
A total of 5,000 people were summonsed for the Oland case, but about 4,000 were previously excused by the head sheriff for a variety of reasons.

There are now about 989 people left in the jury pool, from which to choose two more jurors and two alternates.

One hundred and forty-two of them, Group B, are scheduled to appear at the Saint John Law Courts building at 9 a.m. for consideration.

The others are scheduled for later in the week, but won't be required if four people are sworn in on Thursday.

Richard Oland's body was discovered in his investment firm office, in the city's uptown, on July 7, 2011. He was 69.

His only son was charged more than two years later and ordered last December to stand trial.

The Oland family is well-known in the Maritimes. It owns Moosehead Breweries Ltd., the oldest independently-owned brewery in Canada.

Richard Oland left the company in the 1980s. His brother, Derek Oland, now runs the brewery as its executive chairman.