Home Latest News Judge refuses access to information about secret Vancouver trial

Judge refuses access to information about secret Vancouver trial

The mystery deepens over a covert lawsuit in Vancouver when a judge turned down a media request for information about the case.

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The mystery surrounding a covert lawsuit in Vancouver has grown after a judge turned down a media request for information about the case.

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On Monday, a Postmedia reporter was forced to leave the courtroom in a civil suit before Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, the first day of what would become a 31-day trial.

The case referred to as “Named Persons v. Attorney General of Canada” went on camera or behind closed doors.

The court file was also sealed, and the clerk’s office and a court spokesman declined to provide details, not even the names of the lawyers involved.

So on Thursday, a Postmedia lawyer appeared in court before the chief judge in a public courtroom asking for a number of injunctions.

Scott Dawson informed the court that his primary purpose, without access to the evidence and without even knowing the nature of the action or the details, was to have some information to challenge the publishing ban and sealing by the court orders.

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Dawson asked the court to grant Postmedia legal standing in the proceedings and the right to access material in the case with a view to pursuing the court’s request for openness.

The longtime media lawyer said it was a “very unusual case” in a Canadian court for proceedings to be closed completely.

“It really erodes public trust, unnecessarily in my opinion. There’s always something to say.”

Dawson noted that Canada’s courts are presumed to be open and that any injunction that overrides the open-law principle would adversely affect the rights of Canadian citizens and the media to observe and report on the courts’ cases.

He cited a lengthy legal test in media cases, including the cases of R v. Mentuck and Dagenais v. CBC, which requires the petitioner seeking a publishing ban to demonstrate that the injunctions sought are necessary to avoid serious risk. for the proper administration of justice and the beneficial effects of the prohibition outweigh the harmful effects on the rights of the public.

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The judge said he allowed Postmedia to apply to access documents, but refused to allow Postmedia to enroll in the secret trial.

He said he had carefully considered the Dagenais and Mentuck cases, as well as other judicial precedents, in taking the discretionary orders he issued.

But he concluded that the case before him in the secret trial was one of those “rare and exceptional” cases where the public court principles enunciated in the earlier cases do not apply, and rejected Postmedia’s application.

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors also declined to release information about the case, saying the court issued the seal and in-camera orders, which must take into account relevant legal principles.

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“Therefore, the Justice Department cannot provide additional information about the procedure,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in an email.

Mark Bantey, a longtime media lawyer in Montreal, said it was “extremely unusual” for the judge to release no information at all.

In some cases, such as counter-terrorism judicial investigations or cases where the identity of a police informant is in question, courtrooms have had to be closed to the public.

Bantey noted that there is a recent case of a secret lawsuit in Quebec, but even in that case, the province’s appeals court has released information.

“In your case, I think it’s just extraordinary that you don’t get any information at all.”

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