Court and Tribunal Openness


PDF Reference

Rowat v the Crown, the CBC et al 2021 ONSC 2215

This was an application by Ronald Rowat to ban the publication of his name and any information that can identify him relating to multiple charges of criminal harassment he faces contrary to s. 264 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The applicant is also known as J.J. Clarke, a media personality who has been an Ottawa television broadcaster and local household name for several decades.

The following is a chronology of the court attendances, and existing orders applicable to this matter:
a) On January 29, 2021 a section 517 publication ban was requested by the Applicant and ordered in the Ontario Court of Justice, s. 517 of the Criminal Code provides for a mandatory publication ban in respect of bail hearings. It states that a justice “shall” make the order on application by the accused, and that “evidence taken, the information given or the representations made and the reasons if any by the justice shall not be published…”
b) On Sunday, January 31, 2021 the Court granted an ex-parte interim order banning the publication of Mr. Rowat’s name in connection with the criminal harassment allegations. This was at the behest of his counsel Mr. Greenspon.
c) The order was in place until February 1, 2021 at 2 PM, to allow counsel representing the Crown, and counsel representing the media to address the matter. At that time the court and counsel set a date for February 10, 2021 for a one-day hearing to argue the application. The interim publication ban order remained in effect.
d) The hearing was not completed on February 10, 2021 and was adjourned to February 24, 2021 for continuation. The interim order of January 31, 2021 remained in effect. On that date the Crown sought a publication ban pursuant to section 486.5 (1) of the Criminal Code and an order was granted directing that any information that could identify certain victims and witnesses in the proceeding would not be published in any document or broadcasted or transmitted in any way.
e) The application was taken under reserve. The ban order was to remain in effect until the matter was decided.

The court was asked to accept either one of two propositions:
1) That the publication of Mr. Rowat’s name in connection with these criminal charges would be a violation of his section 7 and section 11 (d) rights as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The remedy sought pursuant to section 24 (1) of the Charter is a ban on the publication of his name until the completion of the criminal trial.
2) That the publication ban in the circumstances of this case is also justified by application of the common law Mentuck test as it should be interpreted today.

Justice Maranger denied the application and concluded:

…to grant a publication ban in this case, based upon the arguments made, would mean that virtually every accused person could justify preventing the media from reporting their identity in criminal proceedings. This would be wrong in my view because the hallmark of a free and democratic society is a criminal justice system that is open, visible, and subject to being reported on and scrutinized by, a free press.