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EDITORIAL – Let the television cameras into Canada’s trial courtrooms

(Image: Pixabay.com)

An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE NOT-GUILTY verdict in Saskatchewan’s Gerald Stanley trial has sparked a lot of outrage, resulting in rallies in several cities over the weekend in support of the family of Colten Boushie.

The 22-year-old Cree was shot and killed on Stanley’s farm in August of 2016.

The moral indignation is based at least in part on a belief that there must be changes in the way juries are selected. Provincial and federal politicians have weighed in, too, fighting over whether they should even be discussing it in public.

But there’s another skirmish on the sidelines that begs examination. RCMP are investigating the online posting of a video showing the announcement of the not-guilty verdict by the jury, and the shocked reaction from the public gallery.

According to news reports, the video was taken from an overflow room for the public that featured a live feed. Recording of the trial, however, was prohibited.

Televising trials is very rare in Canada. This isn’t O.J. Simpson country. Keeping TV cameras out of the courtroom is supposed to protect witnesses from being influenced by what other witnesses say.

And supposedly, witnesses and lawyers might grandstand for the cameras.

Those who support banning cameras point out that media and public are free to attend most trials in person. But those who say cameras should be allowed argue the same thing — why can we watch in person, but not at home?

Those wanting the ban almost always win.

Seems to me that our courts are either open or they’re not; either we have a free press or we don’t. Few people can attend trials in person, but they could learn a lot about the system and about specific trials — such as the Stanley trial — if they were televised.

There’s little evidence that cameras cause any interference with justice, and if we need strict rules around the use of TV footage, then let’s do that.

But let the cameras in.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear twice daily Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

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About Mel Rothenburger (5669 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Let the television cameras into Canada’s trial courtrooms

  1. Sean McGuinness // February 13, 2018 at 9:07 AM // Reply

    I think it’s fair to say that as soon as one sticks a tv camera in front of someone, they’re going to behave differently. “Reality television” isn’t really real for that reason. There is a difference between having an audience of 100 or so, and an audience of several million. I’m glad that Canada’s legal/trial process isn’t like the circus that exists south of the border.

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