Employee has no right to privacy, inquiry told

Publication ban would turn tradition ‘on its head’, inquiry into sex abuse hears

The Ottawa Citizen

Friday, December 08, 2006

Neco Cockburn

A publication ban to protect the name of an Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic diocese employee would be a “revolutionary” step that would strike a serious blow to freedom of the press, a court heard yesterday.

Citizen lawyer Rick Dearden said the diocese employee, who was acquitted in court of sexual abuse, is “caught up in this process and doesn’t have a discretionary right to privacy” at the inquiry into historical sexual abuse in the Cornwall area.

A publication ban to protect the name of the employee, as a person who has been acquitted, would “stand on its head” the way Canadian media have reported on criminal matters, Mr. Dearden said yesterday, adding such a change is something Parliament, not the court, should decide.

A judicial review at the Ontario Divisional Court heard arguments yesterday after a diocese motion to protect the employee’s identity was dismissed last week by Commissioner Normand Glaude.

A temporary publication ban protecting the identity of the employee remains in place at least until Justice Robert Maranger makes his decision, which is expected today or Monday.

Diocese lawyer Bruce Carr-Harris said yesterday he is not seeking a change in law, but only the protection of the employee’s name during the inquiry, which is mandated to look at the institutional response to, and police investigations of, the sexual abuse.

Mr. Carr-Harris said the employee’s name should remain under a publication ban because he was found by a court to be innocent.

The stigma attached to the allegations, especially if made public again in the media, could bring undue harm to the employee, who can’t challenge testimony given at the inquiry, he said.

“There is a serious risk to the protection of the innocent in this case,” Mr. Carr-Harris said.

But CBC lawyer Colin Baxter said the diocese “sells short” the public, media and commission. One should assume that the public is able to process and weigh evidence given at the inquiry, he said. Media reports of the allegations and criminal trial involving the employee are on the public record, and are fair, balanced and appropriate, Mr. Baxter said.

“The public needs to be able to relate this to what they have heard,” he said.

Inquiry witness Claude Marleau identified the employee during testimony last week, but that part of his evidence was not broadcast via cable television or webcam. Transcripts of the testimony were read in court yesterday.

The public and media present during Mr. Marleau’s appearance were able to hear the employee’s name, Mr. Carr-Harris said. But there is no need to publish the name of the acquitted man “far and wide,” he said.

Mr. Carr-Harris was also concerned that Mr. Marleau was able to make his allegations about the employee as fact at the inquiry.

Brian Gover, lawyer for the commission, said Judge Glaude used “vigilance” when presiding over the testimony.

The judge made it clear that the employee had been acquitted in relation to the allegations, said Mr. Gover, who urged deference to Judge Glaude’s ruling, saying that the commissioner is experienced in making such decisions.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006