Simon Threlkeld is a former Toronto lawyer (law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School), holds an MA in philosophy (University of Toronto), and writes about democracy. In 1998 he published an article in the academic journal Social Policy titled “A blueprint for democratic law-making: Give citizen juries the final say” whose abstract is below.
17 years later, Threlkeld is still a committed advocate for sortition, and has two recent pieces in the Canadian press advocating the use of sortition in order to democratize the Canadian government and media. In both cases Threlkeld is not proposing to use sortition to select office holders, but rather to use sortition to select committees that would appoint the office holders.
In September Threlkeld proposed in the National Post to have the Canadian Senate members appointed by randomly selected juries:
Simon Threlkeld: Select senators by jury
Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C., often called the “cradle of democracy,” was largely run by juries chosen from the citizens by lottery. This kept a wide range of decision-making power firmly in the hands of the citizens. Juries can be used for the same purpose in modern societies, including for the selection of Canada’s Senate.
The Senate can be chosen by juries of randomly sampled Canadians who meet together face-to-face to make an informed decision after deliberation. Such a Senate will be independent from political parties, and chosen in a highly democratic, non-partisan and well informed way.
Now, Threlkeld is proposing in the National Observer appointing the board of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by randomly selected juries:
Let citizen juries bring independence and democracy to the CBC
The only way to end the patronage problem at the CBC is for the prime minister and politicians to be removed from the selection process.
Classical Athens sheds light on how this can be done in a highly democratic way.
Widely considered the birthplace of democracy, Athens was largely run by juries chosen from the citizens by lottery. Juries kept decision-making in the hands of the citizens, and can do the same for public broadcasting today.
The power the prime minister and his or her party have over the CBC can be transferred to randomly sampled juries of Canadians. These juries would meet together to make an informed decision after deliberation, and can be paid to work full-time for as many weeks as needed.
Random-sample juries engage a representative cross-section of the public, and provide the democratic ideal of informed rule by the people.
A blueprint for democratic law-making: Give citizen juries the final say
Simon Threlkeld, 1998, Social Policy, Vol. 28 Issue 4.
Abstract: The article discusses the role of juries or jury assemblies in giving the citizens a final say about laws. Juries are chosen by random selection because that is the best way to give a representative cross-section of the citizenry. Each citizen has the same chance and right to be chosen as any other. A jury is well suited for making an informed decision because the jurors can meet face to face and work full time for the days, weeks, or months needed to become fully informed about the matter at hand. Citizen groups can be allowed to bring proposed laws before a jury for a short preliminary hearing of the arguments for and against the law. After the preliminary hearing, the jury decides by majority vote whether to reject the proposed law or to refer it for full in-depth jury hearings. If a jury approves the law by majority vote after such full hearings, then the law goes into effect. Juries are suitable for deciding all types of laws at all levels of government, from municipal by-laws about smoking to national laws on the environment and taxes. Referenda are unsuitable for the informed decision-making needed for real democracy. In-depth jury hearings are an infinitely better basis for an informed decision than a referendum vote. An effective referendum campaign requires a lot of money to get the message out to the voters.