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What is jury duty?

Jury box in a courtroom.
Jury box in a courtroom. Photo from iStock/Getty Images

All Canadian citizens have a civic duty to serve as a juror when called upon. All provinces and territories have a jury act and/or regulation.

You may receive a jury summons (court document), which means you will be part of a jury panel. This is a pool of potential jurors. From this pool, you may or may not be actually chosen to sit on a trial.

If you are selected for jury duty, you best attend court. If you don’t show up, you may be held in contempt of court and receive a fine. In some provinces, the fine can be as much as $1,000.

Your employer is obligated to give you the time off to attend court for jury duty purposes. They are not, however, required to pay you for this time unless there is alternative agreement in place.

Both criminal and civil trials may be conducted by a judge and jury. Criminal trials require 12 jurors. In most provinces, civil trials require only six jurors.

The jury hears the evidence from both sides at trial and determines the facts of the case.

The judge then provides the jury with instructions on the law. Based on the facts and the judge’s instructions, the jury renders a decision of “guilty” or “not guilty.”

Most provinces have similar rules on juror eligibility. For instance, any Canadian citizen who is over the age of 19 may be selected as a juror. However, a number of individuals are often ineligible to become jurors. These include: members of the House of Commons and other legislative assemblies; anyone working for the administration of justice (e.g. peace officers); lawyers; qualified medical practitioners; and firefighters.

In addition to those who are ineligible to serve as jurors, some individuals may be exempted from jury duty. Examples include individuals over the age of 70, those who have served on a jury in the five preceding years, and a person for whom service of 10 days or more would cause irreparable financial loss. You carry the burden to show the court why you should be exempted. This may require supporting documentation.

In most provinces, jury members are selected from the most recent official list of electors under the province’s elections legislation or from the list of all registered owners of motor vehicles under the motor vehicle legislation of the province.

Jurors are paid for their attendance. For example, Ontario in 2018 made paid jurors

  • From day 1 to 10: no fee
  • From day 11 to 49: $40 per day
  • From day 50 to the last day of the trial: $100 per day

Extended trials over 50 days are rare.

These amounts vary from province to province, For the amount of juror payments where you live, check with your province's ministry of the attorney-general.

Read more:

Frequently asked questions about jury duty - Ontario

Jury duty: Common Questions - Alberta