05/21/2013 02:50 EDT | Updated 07/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia chief justice slams jury no-shows, reminds public of duty to attend

HALIFAX - The chief justice of Nova Scotia's Supreme Court says 95 people who failed to attend jury selection Tuesday better bring their toothbrushes with them when they appear before him to explain why they were absent.

Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy said the 95 prospective jurors who failed to attend the start of a criminal trial amounted to 40 per cent of those who were asked to attend.

“It’s a duty to participate but not everybody apparently understands that,” he said.

"There's a reason for juries, for jury trials. (The) opportunity to be tried by a jury of one's peers is central to this democracy, to this country."

Two other judges in Nova Scotia have recently highlighted the problem by ordering absentee jurors to appear before them and have imposed fines ranging from $50 to $200. The court went to the unusual step Tuesday of issuing a news release on Kennedy's comments.

Kennedy criticized Canadians who aren't willing to participate in their democracy, despite its faults.

"And even though you may get cynical about what happens in Ottawa from time to time, and you may wonder about how this country survives, I will suggest to you that many of you will agree with me that as bad as it is, it's as good as it gets," he added.

“The problem with this country, regularly, is that Canadians don't deserve it. We’ve had an example of that today."

Kennedy ordered sheriffs to find and serve those who didn't show up with a summons to appear before him at a later date, when they will be asked to explain the reasons for their absence.

"When you contact them, ask them to bring their toothbrushes with them because they're going to spend a day learning what it is to be Canadian," he told the sheriffs.