Citizens' Reference Panel


A Citizens' Reference Panel is a non-compulsory public jury used in Canada to provide policy advice to public and elected officials. They are generally convened by the government or a public agency and typically meet several times over a period of weeks or months to learn about, discuss, and reach agreement (or alignment) on a contentious public issue.

Citizens' Reference Panels will have anywhere from 14-54 citizens members, with equal numbers of men and women, while matching the age profile of the region or jurisdiction they represent. Much like a Royal Commission, the recommendations of a Citizens' Reference Panel are non-binding though they do carry moral stature. 

Problem and Purpose



Citizens' Reference Panels developed as an offshoot of the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in British  Columbia in 2004 and in Ontario in 2006. Since then Citizens' Reference Panels have been used primarily for citizens to deliberate on healthcare issues in Canada.

Reference Panels are part of a so-called 'deliberative turn' in Canadian healthcare, beginning in 2002 with the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada which utilised dialogue and deliberative techniques to understand citizens' view on transforming the healthcare system in Canada.

Participant Selection

Members of a Citizens' Reference Panel are randomly invited and selected during a civic lottery process. They are considered volunteers and with the exception of reimbursements for travel, they receive no financial compensation for their time. 

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

Citizens' Reference Panels appear similar in format to Citizens' Juries, although they may meet over a longer period of time than a CJ. One panel on health technologies met over a period of 18 months for five one-day meetings, whereas Juries usually meet for one or two day periods over a period of a few months.

Prior to meeting, information on the topic is circulated to participants through a workbook. The topic is decided beforehand by whoever is convening the panel and with key stakeholders. Like a Citizens' Jury, participants hear relevant evidence and information from a range of expertise, and take part in structured discussions and small group deliberation.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

A number of Citizens' Reference Panels are documented on Participedia. Find out about the impact of the following cases:

Analysis and Lessons Learned


Secondary Sources


External Links








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