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June 20, By Adrian HumphreysTalha Hashmani, National Post

To study and track publication ban use in Canada, National Post sought studies, reports or analysis from justice ministries, court administrations, journal articles and legal academics — but found none. To fill the void, the Post did an in-depth study of its own.

The Post’s study of all known discretionary publication bans requested during the past two years in courts across four provinces shows a 25 per cent increase from one year to the next.

The jump included 21 per cent more requests in civil court cases and 37 per cent more in criminal court cases.

This unique study is based on representative provinces — Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia — over the two most recent years.

An analysis found 71 per cent of requests asking a judge to prevent people from knowing something that would normally be public information were made in civil cases, such as lawsuits against people or businesses or family disputes.

The remaining 29 per cent of publication ban requests were made in criminal cases, where someone is charged with a crime.

Mark Bantey, a Montreal media law specialist who frequently represents the Montreal Gazette, said an increasing use of publication bans attacks a hallmark of democracy.

“All publication bans are intrusions on freedom of expression. There’s no question about that,” said Bantey. “A pub ban is an infringement of freedom of the press and the open court principle. So, the question becomes, is each publication ban justified?”

“The open courts principle is pretty fundamental to our operation as a society. We don’t ever want to have situations where penal proceedings are taking place outside of public scrutiny,” said David Fraser, a lawyer based in Halifax who specializes in privacy and Canadian privacy laws.

Read the full story here