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Cameras in the courthouse decision to be released

On January 28th, the Supreme Court of Canada released decisions in the companion cases of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, et al. v. Attorney General of Quebec, et al. and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v. Canada, et al. In these cases, the Court addressed for the first time the validity of rules restricting the media’s ability to interview, photograph and film in courthouses’ public hallways, as well as the validity of rules altogether prohibiting the media from broadcasting recordings of public court proceedings.

In a disappointing judgment, the court dismissed the media organizations’ appeal, holding unanimously that although s. 2(b) of the Charter protects the right to conduct interviews, film and take photographs in courthouses and broadcast recordings of hearings, the infringements of s. 2(b) were justified under s. 1 of the Charter. The Court stated that allowing the appeal could compromise the serenity and decorum of hearings. Justice Marie Deschamps, writing for the 9-0 majority wrote, “The fair administration of justice is necessarily dependent on maintaining order and decorum in and near courtrooms and on protecting the privacy of litigants appearing before the courts.”

In a separate ruling, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada, the court upheld a lower court decision to ban on the broadcast of a video recording of a statement an accused had made to police before being charged.

The BCCLA was an intervener in the case and argued that allowing media to access courthouses’ public spaces and transmit court proceedings is vital to upholding the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Openness tends to foster the integrity of judicial proceedings and allows the public to access information that might otherwise be hidden from view. The BCCLA was represented by Simon V. Potter and Michael Feder of McCarthy Tetrault LLP.