manitobacourts.mb.ca

Information for Media

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Who to Contact

The Executive Assistant to the Chief Justices and Chief Judge is the media relations officer for the courts and judiciary in Manitoba and can be reached by telephone at (204) 945-8043; by fax at (204) 945-5751; or by email at aimee.fortier@gov.mb.ca. The Executive Assistant is located at the Winnipeg Law Courts Complex, 2nd Floor – 408 York Avenue, Winnipeg.

The Executive Assistant will provide you with assistance in obtaining public information from the court records of the Provincial Court, Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal, found in court offices throughout Manitoba. The Executive Assistant will also handle all requests for comment from specific judges and/or provide a response to requests for comment on issues affecting judicial administration.

Court Policies/Practices Affecting Media Coverage

Media cameras are not permitted in court facilities in Manitoba, unless prior permission has been granted by the Chief Justices and Chief Judge, e.g. for swearing in ceremonies for newly appointed judges or pursuant to an undertaking related to the use of the designated media area within the Winnipeg Law Courts Complex.  Signed undertakings must be received in the office of the Executive Assistant to the Chief Justices and Chief Judge before they take effect. Media requests to have a camera present during a court proceeding or to broadcast directly from a court proceeding fall within the discretion of the presiding judge and can be made by request to aimee.fortier@gov.mb.ca or by application to the Court.  Guidelines have been issued for this purpose.  Please review the Manitoba Courts Media and Audio Video Recording in the Courtroom Guidelines for more information. NOTE: The Media Audio Visual Recordings in the Courtrooms guidelines pre-date the pilot project dealing with cameras in courtrooms.  The pilot project does not require the process set out in sections Four (Application for Leave to Broadcast), Five (Objection to application) and Six (Hearing of Application) unless the requesting party wishes to pursue the broadcast request following a denial pursuant to the pilot project.

The Manitoba Courts Electronic Device Policy provides directives on the presence and use of electronic devices within Manitoba Court facilities and courtrooms.

Cameras in Courtrooms Initiative

 The “Open Court Principle” was first described by the Supreme Court of Canada, and continues to be known as, “a hallmark of a democratic society” and an essential part of ensuring public access to the courts and an opportunity to see “justice administered in a non arbitrary manner, according to law”.

While courts are open to the public, few members have the opportunity to attend those courts in person.  Most people rely on the media to tell them what happens. As a result, the media play an important role with regard to informing the public about the operation of the courts and the open court principle.

Together,  the Manitoba Court of Appeal, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench and the Manitoba Provincial Court are spearheading  a pilot project that will allow the presence of a camera(s) in a courtroom at each level of court during a court proceeding.  No proceeding which involves the testimony of witnesses will form part of the pilot project.  

The first of these proceedings took place on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in the Court of Queen’s Bench where Associate Chief Justice Shane Perlmutter acquitted Ms. Cassandra Knott of the 2nd degree Murder charge she faced.  He issued detailed reasons for his decision.  The CBC was present in the courtroom and provided a live stream of the proceeding.  The live feed was shared with other media.

The second of these proceedings took place on Wednesday, April 30,  2014 9:30 a.m. in the Manitoba Court of Appeal in the matter of R v. Denis Labossiere. Mr. Labossiere was found guilty by a jury of three counts of First Degree Murder following a trial from January 16, 2012 to February 1, 2012.  Mr. Labossiere has appealed his conviction and this appeal was broadcast on Wednesday, April 30th. The Court reserved their decision.  The CBC was present in the courtroom and provided a live stream of the proceeding.  The live feed was shared with other media.

On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at 2pm, there was a live broadcast from a Provincial Court federal disposition docket.  The Court heard sentencing submissions for a number of cases involving drug and weapon charges in courtroom  230 and imposed sentences.  CTV was present in the courtroom and provided a live stream of the proceeding which was shared with other media.

On Wednesday, June 4,  2014 beginning at 10am the Court of Queen’s Bench heard arguments in the matter of The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba vs. The Government of Manitoba related to the recent PST increase.  Justice Hanssen reserved his decision.

Together, the three Courts in Manitoba are moving towards identifying courtrooms that will have cases set in them on the understanding that they will be presumptively broadcast.  Rather than have broadcasters apply to the Court for permission to broadcast, parties can assume that cases assigned to these courtrooms will be broadcast unless a party (or parties) can satisfy the court as to why it should not be, or why limitations should be set on the broadcast.

Those wishing to view the broadcast from these courtrooms can do so through local media web pages.  The Court is undertaking to make the live stream available on the Manitoba Courts website and in due course to also make archives of each broadcast available on the Manitoba Courts website.

As additional dates for courtroom broadcasts are determined, they will be announced on the news page.

Access to Court Records/Files

The records or files kept by the court in regard to particular cases are generally accessible or can be viewed by the public and media. Please review the Policy: Access to Court Records in Manitoba for further information. It is important when you are interested in viewing a court file that you know where the particular court case was heard or filed, as this will determine which court office maintains that court file or record. Court of Appeal files are kept at the Law Courts in Winnipeg at 408 York Avenue, which is the only location for that court.

A request for information as to a person’s criminal record is to be directed to the appropriate policing agency. The court record concerning a person’s criminal proceedings before the court is not the person’s criminal record – it is a record of the criminal proceedings before the court involving that person.

Effect of Bans on Publication

When the court has ordered a ban on publication regarding a particular court file, this does not mean that access to the file will no longer be given, but prevents particular information contained in file documents or disclosed at a hearing in that case from being published or broadcast. Bans on publication may be made in accordance with provisions set out in particular statutes, like the Criminal Code. For example, a ban on publication may prevent the publication of any information that would identify a witness or victim/complainant in a criminal case. A ban on publication may also prevent the publication of any details or evidence disclosed at a particular hearing, such as an application for judicial interim release or bail. It is also an offence to publish or broadcast any part of a trial when the jury is not present.

Transcripts of Court Proceedings

Just like members of the public, media can order copies of court transcripts. In Winnipeg, the Transcription Services Unit is located on the second floor of the Law Courts Complex at 408 York Avenue and can be contacted at (204) 945-3026. For more detailed information on ordering court transcripts.

Exhibits

If you are interested in viewing and/or obtaining a copy of a court exhibit, you may contact the Executive Assistant to the Chief Justices and Chief Judge. In some cases a request to have access to and/or copy of a court exhibit may require a formal application to the court, e.g. Video/audio exhibit evidence.

Release of Court Judgments

Judgments of the three levels of court in Manitoba will be posted to the Manitoba Courts website as soon as possible after their release to Judgments Provincial Court of Manitoba; Judgments Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench; and Judgments Manitoba Court of Appeal.  Electronic copies of judgments not yet posted to the Manitoba Courts website may be requested by contacting the Executive Assistant to the Chief Justices and Chief Judge.  For electronic copies of older decisions of the court in Manitoba, please go to www.canlii.org

Difference between Inquests and Inquiries

Often media members are not clear on the difference between an inquest and an inquiry. So here is some information that may be of assistance to you.

Inquests

Inquests in Manitoba can either be called by the Minister of Justice or the province’s Chief Medical Examiner in accordance with the provisions of The Fatality Inquiries Act. When an inquest is called, a Crown Attorney or other legal counsel will be appointed on behalf of the Crown to attend and examine witnesses called at the inquest. The inquest will be held before a Provincial Court Judge. The inquest hearing is a sitting of the Provincial Court and following the evidence presented at the inquest, the inquest judge is responsible for making a report to be submitted to the Minister of Justice and the Chief Medical Examiner. The role of the inquest judge is to determine the cause of death and to make recommendations that would likely prevent deaths in circumstances similar to those that resulted in the death that is the subject of the inquest. The recommendations of the inquest judge are not binding and in accordance with The Fatality Inquiries Act, the judge is to express no opinion on or make a determination with respect to culpability (fault) that could reasonably identify a person as a culpable party.

Inquiries

An inquiry is established by an Order in Council (a public document) of the government (could be either federal or provincial), setting out the terms of reference for the inquiry and appointing an individual as a Commissioner for the inquiry. In recent Manitoba public inquiries, Commissioners have tended to be either sitting or retired judges. The inquiry holds public hearings to hear evidence and submissions in regard to the subject of the inquiry. At the end of the hearings, the Commissioner makes a report and submits it to the government who commissioned the inquiry. The Commissioner’s report contains recommendations in accordance with the terms set out in the Order in Council. It would then be the decision of the government as to the course of action it would take in response to the recommendations of the Commissioner.

An inquiry is called in accordance with the provisions of The Manitoba Evidence Act by the government in response to a matter which it considers to be of such public importance that an inquiry is necessary. Public inquiries are not court proceedings and it is up to the Commissioner to determine the level of media and public access to be given, e.g. televising of proceedings.

Information on this page last updated on March 29, 2016