A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc. et al., (2012) 434 N.R. 323 (SCC)

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Rothstein and Karakatsanis, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court of Canada
Case DateMay 10, 2012
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2012), 434 N.R. 323 (SCC);2012 SCC 46;[2012] SCJ No 46 (QL);[2012] 2 SCR 567;[2012] ACS no 46

A.B. v. Bragg Com. Inc. (2012), 434 N.R. 323 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

.........................

Temp. Cite: [2012] N.R. TBEd. SE.010

A.B. by her Litigation Guardian, C.D. (appellant) v. Bragg Communications Incorporated, a body corporate, and Halifax Herald Limited, a body corporate (respondents) and BullyingCanada Inc., British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Kids Help Phone, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Newspapers Canada, Ad IDEM/Canadian Media Lawyers Association, Canadian Association of Journalists, Professional Writers Association of Canada, Book and Periodical Council, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, Canadian Unicef Committee, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and Beyond Borders (interveners)

(34240; 2012 SCC 46; 2012 CSC 46)

Indexed As: A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc. et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Rothstein and Karakatsanis, JJ.

September 27, 2012.

Summary:

The 15 year old applicant asserted that an unidentified perpetrator created a fake Facebook profile, which included a photograph of the applicant and other particulars that identified her. The profile discussed the applicant's physical appearance and weight, and allegedly included scandalous sexual commentary of a private and intimate nature. The applicant commenced three applications: one to abridge the notice period required respecting an application for relief brought pursuant to Civil Procedure Rule 5.06; one to use pseudonyms and for a publication ban concerning the substance of the defamatory statements made about the applicant; and one for an order requiring that Bragg Communications provide information in its possession regarding the identity of the person(s) who used an IP address on a specified date and time.

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court, in a decision reported at 293 N.S.R.(2d) 222; 928 A.P.R. 222, exercised its discretion to abridge the notice period. The court allowed the application for disclosure, but denied the application for a publication ban and the use of pseudonyms. The applicant appealed and moved for orders permitting the use of pseudonyms for the purposes of the appeal and for a stay of the judgment below or a publication ban. The applicant also requested that her appeal be set down for hearing. The media respondents who had participated in the initial motion did not consent to the orders sought and took no position on the motion.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, per Oland, J.A., in a decision reported at 293 N.S.R.(2d) 56; 928 A.P.R. 56, allowed the motion for the use of pseudonyms and for a publication ban on the actual words in the fake Facebook profile of the applicant pending the disposition of the appeal. The court set the appeal down for hearing.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, in a decision reported at 301 N.S.R.(2d) 34; 953 A.P.R. 34, dismissed the appeal. The court continued the publication ban for 60 days or such further time as the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court might direct. The applicant appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal in part to permit the applicant to proceed anonymously in her application for an order requiring that Bragg Communications disclose the identity of the relevant IP user(s). However, the court refused to impose a publication ban on that part of the fake Facebook profile that contained no identifying information.

Editor's Note: Certain names in the following case have been initialized or the case otherwise edited to prevent the disclosure of identities where required by law, publication ban, Maritime Law Book's editorial policy or otherwise.

Courts - Topic 1404

Administration - General - Public access to judicial proceedings (incl. court records) - The 15 year old applicant asserted that an unidentified perpetrator created a fake Facebook profile, which included the applicant's photograph and other particulars that identified her - The profile discussed the applicant's physical appearance and weight, and allegedly included scandalous sexual commentary of a private and intimate nature - The applicant applied to use pseudonyms and for a publication ban concerning the substance of the defamatory statements made about her - The dismissal of the application was affirmed on appeal - The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the applicant's appeal in part to permit her to proceed anonymously - Her privacy interests were tied both to her age and to the nature of the victimization - It was not merely a question of her privacy, but of her privacy from the relentlessly intrusive humiliation of sexualized online bullying - There was an absence of evidence of harm from the applicant about her own emotional vulnerability - However, while evidence of a direct, harmful consequence to an applicant was relevant, courts could also conclude that there was objectively discernable harm - Harm could be found by applying reason and logic - It was logical to infer that children could suffer harm through cyberbullying - Such was consistent with the phenomenon's psychological toxicity - There was also resulting inevitable harm to children and the administration of justice if children declined to take steps to protect themselves because of the risk of further harm from public disclosure - The harm to the open courts principle and freedom of the press was minimal given the relative unimportance of the victim's identity to the exercise of those principles - However, with the protection of the applicant's identity, there was little justification for a publication ban on the non-identifying content of the Facebook profile - The public's right to open court and press freedom therefore prevailed respecting the non-identifying Facebook content - See paragraphs 10 to 31.

Evidence - Topic 16

General and definitions - Ban on publication - [See Courts - Topic 1404 ].

Practice - Topic 576

Parties - Persons unknown or not named - Use of a pseudonym or initials - [See Courts - Topic 1404 ].

Practice - Topic 5003

Conduct of trial - General principles - Ban on publication - [See Courts - Topic 1404 ].

Cases Noticed:

Application Under Section 83.28 of the Criminal Code, Re, [2004] 2 S.C.R. 332; 322 N.R. 161; 199 B.C.A.C. 1; 326 W.A.C. 1; 2004 SCC 43, refd to. [para. 11].

Vancouver Sun, Re - see Application Under Section 83.28 of the Criminal Code, Re.

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Dagenais et al., [1994] 3 S.C.R. 835; 175 N.R. 1; 76 O.A.C. 81, refd to. [para. 11].

R. v. Mentuck (C.G.), [2001] 3 S.C.R. 442; 277 N.R. 160; 163 Man.R.(2d) 1; 269 W.A.C. 1; 2001 SCC 76, refd to. [para. 11].

Edmonton Journal v. Alberta (Attorney General), [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326; 102 N.R. 321; 103 A.R. 321, refd to. [para. 13].

MacIntyre v. Nova Scotia (Attorney General), Grainger and Canada (Attorney General) et al., [1982] 1 S.C.R. 175; 40 N.R. 181; 49 N.S.R.(2d) 609; 96 A.P.R. 609, refd to. [para. 13].

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. et al. v. Canada (Attorney General) et al., [2011] 1 S.C.R. 19; 411 N.R. 23; 2011 SCC 2, refd to. [para. 16].

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v. Canada (Attorney General) et al., [2011] 1 S.C.R. 65; 411 N.R. 75; 2011 SCC 3, refd to. [para. 16].

R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 103; 65 N.R. 87; 14 O.A.C. 335, refd to. [para. 16].

RJR-MacDonald Inc. et Imperial Tobacco Ltd. v. Canada (Procureur général), [1995] 3 S.C.R. 199; 187 N.R. 1, refd to. [para. 16].

Thomson Newspapers Co. et al. v. Canada (Attorney General), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 877; 226 N.R. 1; 109 O.A.C. 201, refd to. [para. 16].

R. v. D.B., [2008] 2 S.C.R. 3; 374 N.R. 221; 237 O.A.C. 110; 2008 SCC 25, refd to. [para. 17].

R. v. Sharpe (J.R.), [2001] 1 S.C.R. 45; 264 N.R. 201; 146 B.C.A.C. 161; 239 W.A.C. 161; 2001 SCC 2, refd to. [para. 17].

Toronto Star Newspaper Ltd. v. Ontario, 2012 ONCJ 27, refd to. [para. 18].

R. v. D.O.L., [1993] 4 S.C.R. 419; 161 N.R. 1; 88 Man.R.(2d) 241; 51 W.A.C. 241, refd to. [para. 19].

R. v. W.R., 2010 ONCJ 526, refd to. [para. 21].

Canadian Newspapers Co. v. Canada, [1988] 2 S.C.R. 122; 87 N.R. 163; 32 O.A.C. 259, refd to. [para. 25].

R. v. D.H., 2002 BCPC 464, refd to. [para. 26].

F.N., Re, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 880; 255 N.R. 250; 191 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 181; 577 A.P.R. 181; 2000 SCC 35, refd to. [para. 28].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Eltis, Karen, The Judicial System in the Digital Age: Revisiting the Relationship between Privacy and Accessibility in the Cyber Context (2011), 56 McGill L.J. 289, p. 302 [para. 14].

Jones, Lisa M., Finkelhor, David, and Beckwith, Jessica, Protecting victims' identities in press coverage of child victimization (2010), 11 Journalism 347, pp. 349, 350 [para. 25].

Lucock, Caroke, and Yeo, Michael, Naming Names: The Pseudonym in the Name of the Law (2006), 3 U. Ottawa L. & Tech. J. 53, pp. 72, 73 [para. 14].

Nova Scotia, Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying, Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There's No App for That: The Report of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying (2012), pp. 4 [paras. 20, 21]; 11, 12 [para. 22]; 42, 43 [para. 21]; 66 [para. 24]; 86 [para. 21]; Appendix E [para. 24].

Olson, Lenon, Cyberbullying: A Growing Problem (February 2012, online), Science Daily, paras. 11, 16 [para. 21].

Winn, Peter A., Online Court Records: Balancing Judicial Accountability and Privacy in an Age of Electronic Information (2004), 79 Wash. L. Rev. 307, p. 328 [para. 24].

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Child Safety Online: Global challenges and strategies (2011), pp. 15, 16 [para. 26].

Counsel:

Michelle C. Awad, Q.C., and Jane O'Neill, for the appellant;

Daniel W. Burnett and Paul Brackstone, for the amicus curiae;

Written submissions only by Brian F. P. Murphy and Wanda M. Severns, for the intervener, BullyingCanada Inc.;

Marko Vesely and M. Toby Kruger, for the intervener, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association;

Mahmud Jamal, Jason MacLean, Carly Fidler and Steven Golick, for the intervener, Kids Help Phone;

Iris Fischer and Dustin Kenall, for the intervener, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association;

Joseph E. Magnet and Patricia Kosseim, for the intervener, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada;

Ryder Gilliland and Adam Lazier, for the interveners, Newspapers Canada, Ad IDEM/Canadian Media Lawyers Association, Canadian Association of Journalists, Professional Writers Association of Canada and Book and Periodical Council;

Written submissions only by Tamir Israel, for the intervener, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic;

Jeffrey S. Leon, Ranjan K. Agarwal and Daniel Holden, for the intervener, the Canadian Unicef Committee;

Written submissions only by William S. Challis and Stephen McCammon, for the intervener, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario;

Written submissions only by Jonathan M. Rosenthal, for the intervener, Beyond Borders.

Solicitors of Record:

McInnes Cooper, Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the appellant;

Owen Bird Law Corporation, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the amicus curiae;

Murphy Group, Moncton, New Brunswick, for the intervener, BullyingCanada Inc.;

Lawson Lundell, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the intervener, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association;

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, Kids Help Phone;

Blake, Cassels & Graydon, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association;

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, for the intervener, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada;

Blake, Cassels & Graydon, Toronto, Ontario, for the interveners, Newspapers Canada, Ad IDEM/Canadian  Media   Lawyers  Association, Canadian Association of Journalists, Professional Writers Association of Canada and Book and Periodical Council;

University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, for the intervener, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic;

Bennett Jones, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, the Canadian Unicef Committee;

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario;

Jonathan M. Rosenthal, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervener, Beyond Borders.

This appeal was heard on May 10, 2012, by McLachlin, C.J.C., LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Rothstein and Karakatsanis, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada. Abella, J., delivered the following judgment for the court in both official languages on September 27, 2012.

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