Pub Bans and Sealing Orders

HMQ v Postmedia Network Inc et al 2016 SKPC 089

After a mass shooting at a school in the northern village of La Loche, Saskatchewan, initially, the prosecutor applied for, and obtained, on what can be described as an emergency basis, a discretionary publication ban of any information that could identify any of the victims named in the attempted murder charges the accused, R.D.F., faces. The pub ban was ordered under s. 486.5 of the Criminal Code.

Subsequently, the prosecutor applied for a mandatory pub ban under s. 486.4(2.2) of the Criminal Code, of any information that could identify the victims who were young persons at the time of the incident.

A number of media organizations opposed the application for the discretionary pub ban and challenged the constitutionality of the mandatory ban.

On the issue of the mandatory ban under s. 486.4(2.2) the judge found that the Attorney General did not demonstrate that the section addresses a “pressing and substantial” need and found that it infringes the freedom of expression rights protected under s. 2(b) of the Charter and is not saved by s. 1.

On the issue of the discretionary pub ban under s. 486.5, the judge found that the requested pub ban was “not in the interest of the proper administration of justice”. The Attorney General’s application for a continuing pub ban of the names of, and identifying information about, the victims was denied. However, the automatic pub ban under s. 111 of the YCJA remains in place.