R. v. Eurocopter

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October 31, 2003

After a search warrant was executed on Eurocopter property, they tried to get access to the sealed information to obtain the search warrant, on the basis that it should be open to the public. That attempt failed. An attempt by CBC to open up the challenge was also rebuffed.

A year later, the Crown decided that it could no longer justify sealing most of the material, and asked the judge to consider unsealing it. The judge asked for "interested parties" to be notified. These were CBC, who had been kicked out earlier, and representatives of Mr. Mulroney, Mr. Schreiber, and Mr. Moores. The judge then considered their standing to make representations and decided that all who showed up had that standing.

Then, the court granted counsel's request to see the material at issue, with an undertaking not to reveal it publicly. Each client could also see the material under the same condition. No copies could be made, and only the lawyers could make notes.

In the ensuing argument over openness, CBC wanted it all open. Eurocopter now asked for it to be unsealed, but only for them. Mr. Schreiber argued that nothing should be public unless and until their motion to quash the warrant was considered. Mr. Mulroney took the position that all the material he'd seen so far could be revealed right away. The Crown argued that certain material should remain sealed, but the rest could be released. In the end, the argument for openness prevailed. Justice Then gave the parties one week to obtain a stay of his order from an appellate court, if they were going to launch an appeal, but there was no such application.

The ruling is important. It contradicts earlier cases in Ontario and Quebec (such as R v. Flahiff) which ruled against such access, and now, together with the Toronto Star, CBC and London Free Press ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal in the Aylmer meat packing case, constitutes a significant hurdle for those wishing to seal such documents to overcome.

See R v. Eurocopter

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