September 24, 2021
Canadian Broadcasting Corp v Manitoba 2021 SCC 33
Background:“An affidavit filed in a criminal matter before the Court of Appeal had been subject to a publication ban pending a decision as to its admissibility as new evidence. In its November 2018 reasons allowing the appeal on the merits, the Court of Appeal dismissed the motion for new evidence but ordered that the publication ban remain in effect indefinitely. In May 2019, the CBC brought a motion before the Court of Appeal to have the publication ban set aside, arguing that having access to the affidavit would shed light on the criminal matter before the Court of Appeal and the court’s conclusion on the merits that a miscarriage of justice had occurred at trial.
The Court of Appeal declined to consider the CBC’s motion, citing its rule of practice against rehearings and the doctrine of functus officio. The court reasoned that its jurisdiction was exhausted once it had decided the merits of the case and entered its formal judgment disposing of the appeal. It concluded that it had no authority to hear the motion. The CBC applied for and was granted leave to appeal to the Court from both the Court of Appeal’s 2019 decision refusing to reconsider the publication ban and the Court of Appeal’s 2018 decision ordering the indefinite publication ban.”Summary:“That courts retain supervisory jurisdiction over their court records is not to say that once decisions concerning court openness have been made they are open to reconsideration at any time or for any reason. A publication ban or sealing order is susceptible of reconsideration by the issuing court on two narrow grounds and regardless of whether formalized in an order or not.First, a court may vary or set aside a publication ban or sealing order it has made on timely motion by an affected person, such as the media, who was not given notice of the making of that order and to whom it is appropriate to grant standing for this purpose. Regarding publication bans in criminal matters, standing should be thought of as a matter of a court’s discretion. The media should generally have standing to challenge an order that threatens the open court principle where they are able to show they will make submissions that were not considered and that could have affected the result. A court does retain residual discretion to deny standing where hearing the motion would not be in the interests of justice, such as where it would unduly harm the parties or duplicate argument already before the court. As to delay, a moving party is expected to take prompt action to challenge such an order once it has become aware it exists. In the absence of legislative direction, a court must be guided by the purpose of the rule and the circumstances of each case. The task is a contextual balancing of finality and timely justice against the importance of the matter being heard on the merits. This determination is inherently tied to the facts of each particular case and the nature of the issue raised.Second, a court may vary or set aside a publication ban or sealing order where the circumstances relating to the making of the order have materially changed. The moving party must establish both that a change of circumstances has occurred and that the change, if known at the time of the initial order, would likely have resulted in an order on different terms. The correctness of the initial order is presumed and is not relevant to the existence of a material change of circumstances.Instances in which a court may reconsider a publication ban or sealing order are distinct from an appeal or application for certiorari made to a higher court from such decisions, as the original court is not being asked to reconsider its decision because it is wrongly decided. Finally, the general principles underlying the two grounds for reconsideration can be displaced by legislation, such as applicable rules of court.”