Global Freedom of Expression

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. The Queen

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Audio / Visual Broadcasting
  • Date of Decision
    January 28, 2011
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
    1 S.C.R. 65
  • Region & Country
    Canada, North America
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information, Content Regulation / Censorship, Press Freedom
  • Tags
    Public Interest

Content Attribution Policy

Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:

  • Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
  • Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.

Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Canadian Rules of Criminal Procedure allow the broadcasting of a recording of a hearing. However, this does not apply to the broadcasting of a video recording of a statement before a trial entered into evidence. These types of exhibits are at the discretion of the trial judge whether to permit broadcasting based on a balancing test of freedom of speech, open courts, and the fair administration of justice.


Appellants: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Her Majesty The Queen, Stephan Dufour
Respondents: Attorney General of Canada, Attorney General of Quebec, Attorney General of New Brunswick, Attorney General of Alberta, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and Canadian Civil Liberties Assciation

Stephen Dufour was charged with aiding suicide. At the trial of the defendant, Stephan Dufour, the state produced a video of a statement that the defendant had made in evidence. Journalists were permitted to view the film. The Canadian Broadcasting Company asked the court to authorize the broadcasting of the recording, which the Court denied, because the Rules of Criminal Practice “prohibit any broadcasting of a recording of a hearing, the broadcasting of a video recording should also be prohibited.” [para. 3] The Canadian Broadcasting Company then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Decision Overview

The Court noted the importance of balancing freedom of the press, justice, and the principle of an open courts system. The Court found that the trial judge may have interpreted the Rules of Criminal Practice too broadly, and if the trial were still ongoing remand would be appropriate. This is because the Rules of Criminal Practice do not apply to videos in evidence; only to recordings of proceedings. However, the trial was over at the time of this appeal and the defendant was acquitted, therefore making the case moot.

The Court still analyzed the issue at bar, of whether or not a video statement entered into evidence could be broadcast. The Court found that the trial judge, in considering a motion such as this should weigh “the serenity of the hearing, trial fairness, and the fair administration of justice.” [para. 18] Leaving behind this standard of review at the discretion of the trial judge for future questions about the broadcasting of video recordings entered into evidence, the Supreme Court dismissed the action.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

This case expands expression by allowing the trial court to decide on a case-by-case basis, based on a balancing test, whether video recordings entered into evidence can be broadcast.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Can., Dagenais v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835
  • Can., Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General), [2011] 1 S.C.R. 19
  • Can., Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Quebec (Attorney General), [1989] 1 S.C.R. 927
  • Can., Attorney General (Nova Scotia) v. MacIntyre, [1982] 1 S.C.R. 175
  • Can., Vancouver Sun (Re), [2004] 2 S.C.R. 332
  • Can., Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Ontario, [2005] 2 S.C.R. 188
  • Can., Société Radio‐Canada v. Québec (Procureur général), 2008 QCCA 1910, [2008] R.J.Q. 2303
  • Can., Vickery v. Nova Scotia Supreme Court (Prothonotary), [1991] 1 S.C.R. 671
  • Can., R. v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2010 ONCA 726 (CanLII)
  • Can., Société Radio‐Canada v. Bérubé, [2005] R.J.Q. 1183
  • Can., Named Person v. Vancouver Sun, 2007 SCC 43, [2007] 3 S.C.R. 253
  • Can., Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada, 2010 SCC 21, [2010] 1 S.C.R. 721
  • Can., Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sec. 2
  • Can., Criminal Code, sec. 241 & 1985
  • Can., Rules of Practice of the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec, Criminal Division, Section 8, 2002
  • Can., Supreme Court Act, Section 40, 1985

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

This decision of the Supreme Court of Canada binds Canada’s lower courts.

The decision was cited in:

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:

Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback