January 28, 2011
Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General)
The good news? Media activity within the courthouse is protected by s. 2(b) of the Charter. The bad news? Justice Deschamps, on behalf of the Supreme Court of Canada, upheld the constitutional validity of a total ban on broadcast of official audio recordings of court proceedings. The rationale was that permitting broadcast of them would interfere with the purpose of making them, i.e. to preserve the record, by potentially influencing witness anxiety and behaviour, and, as a result, affecting the record itself. The Supreme Court also upheld a restriction on the freedom of movement of media cameras within court corridors. In Quebec, cameras must stay in corridor locations designated by the court, where journalists can record comings and goings, and can invite and conduct consensual interviews with witnesses, lawyers or the public. The silver lining: Media in other provinces can now argue that they should not have to live with the existing total bans on camera and microphone access to court corridors there. Note: The ban on media camera access to court proceedings in Quebec was not challenged by the media or addressed by the court, and remains an open question.