I am sitting at the Superior Court of Justice as I type this. In September, I got the letter that I was being summoned for Jury Duty. The dreaded letter. Months (a year?) prior, I had filled out the form and didn’t think much about until until the letter arrived. And now here I sit, in a chilly room (why is it so cold?!) with a bunch of strangers. We shuffled in this morning through security like at the airport. The man in front of me actually took his shoes off even though the woman working said it wasn’t necessary. Maybe it made him feel at home. We were placed in colour-coded groups and were told this room would be our home for the next few days. In Canada, the (simplified) rules are: you sit here for up to five days waiting to be called as a juror. If you don’t get called at this time, you go home and your civic duty is done for the next three years. If you do get called to be a juror, your time in that seat depends on the trial you are chosen for.
When you mention to someone that you got the letter, they immediately tell you how you should get out of it. “Say you’re racist!” What?! Seriously?! No, no, no. If you are are the type of person who even thinks of stating that in a room filled with a hundred people, you are someone who I don’t need in my life, thank you very much.
“Say you’re self-employed and you will have a loss of income!” Well, that could be the case except, when I got the letter, I planned my month around it. I blocked off that week from anything too structured just in case. Because I am a virgo and I’m organised in my life but also, because I believe in that whole civic duty thing.
And maybe that makes me a nerd but maybe it just means that I am a decent person. But being asked for Jury Duty is a big ask. It’s your civic duty, It’s part of being a citizen of this (great) country. It’s the one and only thing that we have to do when we get called in Canada. We don’t have to vote. We don’t have to enlist in the military. Called to Jury Duty? It’s the least that you can do.
There is no way of saying this without just saying it: the world is a pretty fucked up place these days. We are killing the planet – there are natural disasters taking place in every part of the world nearly weekly it seems and these disasters are taking place because of the way we have chosen to run the world. Yesterday alone there was an earthquake near the Iran-Iraq border that killed 400 hundred people. FOUR HUNDRED PEOPLE. There are wars currently taking place all over the world. If you have read anything about what is happening with the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, your heart will break. Every man in Hollywoods seems to be accused of some sort of sexual indecency. The American president will not let up and yet his country is suffering. His people are suffering. The world is fucked.
On Saturday my husband and I went to the Remembrance Day ceremony at Old City Hall here in Toronto. It’s something that I do no matter what. It’s something that I feel is important. To honour my grandfathers who fought in the war and to honour everyone affected by it then and now. To honour the sacrifices they made so that we can live in this democratic society that we are in today. On Saturday as I listened to the words, I thought about how lucky we were to be born here, in Canada. The Minister who officiated the event spoke so openly and diplomatically that it made my heart sore. He first honoured the First Nations people whose land we were standing on. When he asked us to pray, he told us to pray to whatever God or Spirit or whatever works for us – that there was no one entity for all of us. He recognised our differences in religion and beliefs, in sex and in backgrounds. He acknowledged PTSD and mental illness that affect our troops and affect many people in our society. And it was so lovely to have this man, a leader of a specific sect, to be open and honest with the people in front of him. To embrace everyone.
And how lucky for those of us to be born here, to have this as our norm. And while this ceremony was happening, I could not help but think of many other places where ceremony like this were no longer possible. Where it was perhaps not safe for such a large group to stand out on the street, in the open. In other places of the world, that would leave you too vulnerable. But here in Toronto, in Canada, it was safe and it felt good to feel safe, together in ceremony on that chilly November day.
So when I received my letter that I was called for Jury Duty, I didn’t panic. I accepted it. Because I live in this democratic country and I am proud to live here and if sitting on a jury in the court of law is the least that I can do for my country, I will do it. Taking a few days off of work is not much sacrifice when you put it against what those before us had done in order for us to live these cushy lives that we do.
Update: I wrote this on the morning of my day one of jury duty and by the afternoon I was actually selected to act as a juror on a trial. More about that later.