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  • Sea to Sky Law

Which, where, who?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

There are several levels of court to help us solve disputes, starting with the Provincial Court. Our top court in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) which provides unifying legal principles which all courts must follow.

The recent SCC decision, on 28 May 2021 cited as 2021 SCC 23, again discusses several legal principles important to our democracy. The first principle important to democracy is that our court system is open to the public = justice must be seen to be done. This openness includes the court file. However, like most principles, there are other rights or principles which may compete. For example, public access to a court in session or the registry file can be restricted such as for family disputes especially when children are involved. However, it is rare when access to a court proceeding or the documents filed is restricted.

In this case, Media wanted to look at documents the parties had filed in their case but which had been sealed, meaning access was restricted. The Media obtained an Order to look at the documents but before it could, the documents were retrieved after the Parties ended their lawsuit and the SCC said that was the end of the matter. A competing principle is the right to keep our information private.

The Court file remains available to the public after the end of a case but documents filed as evidence, not the pleadings, can be retrieved by the parties at the end of their Case so private documents are not available to the public forever.

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