Friday, May 09, 2008


Television to carry the BCR trial?

Soon, we will be hearing from our newest B.C. Blogger about this. It's tempting to blurt it all out now -- or, at least, what I know of it -- but other people are involved. It's best that we allow destiny to unfold as it should. Besides, there's no hurry. Not the way the Basi Virk Basi trial is creeping along.

Meantime, I found this bit of legal poetry to lift the heart of every red-blooded citizen. This excerpt flows from a "Factum" on the topic of why television is often -- though not invariably -- a good thing to have in the courtroom. This is especially true for British Columbians living in central and northern B.C. who were also the most closely tied to BCRail. With courtroom TV, they could follow every hour of the proceedings.

From Court File No. 28823 in the Supreme Court of Canada ...

... C) The Interests in the Balance

a. The Principle of Open Courtrooms

16. The presumption in favour of open courtrooms is grounded in the fundamental concept of democracy that the citizens, collectively, exercise the function of sovereign by ruling themselves. This ideal requires citizens to retain the ability to observe, deliberate on, and call into account both elected and unelected representatives of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government ...

The freedom of individuals to discuss information about the institutions of government, their policies and practices, is crucial to any notion of democratic rule. The liberty to criticize and express dissenting views has long been thought to be a safeguard against state tyranny and corruption.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. New Brunswick (Attorney General), [1996] 3 S.C.R. 480 (S.C.C.) at 494; Appellant's Brief of Authorities, Vol.I, Tab 2

17. The interest of the democratic citizenry that underlies the principle of open courtrooms is elevated to constitutional status by section 2(b) of the Charter. As noted by La Forest, J. in CBC v. New Brunswick:

The principle of open courts is tied inextricably to the rights guaranteed by s.2(b). Openness permits public access to information about the courts, which in turn permits the public to discuss and put forward opinions and criticisms of court practices and proceedings.... The full and fair discussion of public institutions, which is vital to any democracy, is the raison d'etre of the s.2(b) guarantees.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. New Brunswick (Attorney General), [1996] 3 S.C.R. 480 at para.23; Appellant's Brief of Authorities, Vol.I, Tab 2

18. In Edmonton Journal, Cory, J. expressed the preeminent importance free expression in securing the democratic accountability of institutions:

It is difficult to imagine a guaranteed right more important to a democratic society that freedom of expression. Indeed a democracy cannot exist without that freedom to express new ideas and to put forward opinions about the functioning of public institutions. The concept of free and uninhibited speech permeates all truly democratic societies and institutions. The vital importance of the concept cannot be overemphasized.



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