Policy for Access to Supreme Court of Canada Court Records

Effective Date of Policy

This policy takes effect on March 17, 2015.  It replaces the policy dated February 9, 2009.

1 Objective

The objective of this policy is to set out the principles governing access by members of the public, media and parties to judicial proceedings to court records maintained by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (hereinafter “SCC” or “the Court”) and any limitations on access that may exist in a particular case as set out in the policy.

2 Statement of Policy

The SCC will provide access to court records in any judicial proceeding before the Court to members of the public, media and parties to the judicial proceedings in a manner that balances the constitutional requirement of open courts against other rights and interests of the public and participants to judicial proceedings, namely privacy and security of individuals and the proper administration of justice.

3 Principles

3.1 General

In providing access to SCC court records, the following general principles apply:

3.1.1 This policy applies to all court records in any format, whether these records are created, stored or made available on paper, in microfilm, digital or any other format.

3.1.2 Court records filed by Parties are maintained in the format provided by the Parties.  Persons who are unable to access a record in the format provided should contact the Registry or Records Centre to obtain the information in an alternative format.

3.1.3 Nothing in this policy limits the availability of a Court Record to the members of the Court, the Registrar, the Deputy Registrar and SCC staff.

3.1.4 As Parties are entitled to use either English or French in written communications with the Court, court records that are filed by Parties or sent to Parties are provided in the language used by the party without modification.  Search interfaces are available in both official languages.

3.2 Limitations on Access

Access to a Court Record may be subject to restrictions or limitations as noted below: 

3.2.1 Access to any Court Record is subject to any order of a court that continues to apply to SCC proceedings, an order of the Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, or any applicable statutory or common law provision or practice, rule or direction of a lower court that seals the Court Record or limits or restricts the right of access to court records. 

3.2.2 Court staff review information provided by the Parties in each case to determine whether there is a restriction or limitation on access to a Court Record and record any restriction on the Docket. 

3.2.3 Where a Court Record or Case File is subject to a restriction or limitation on access, access to the Court Record or Case File may be prohibited entirely or limited to redacted versions of court records if available.

3.2.4 Court records containing Personal Information, even if they may be accessed, may be subject to publication bans or other limitation on use.

3.2.5 Case files in certain types of judicial proceedings may be subject to limitations on access.  Examples of such case files are judicial proceedings under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, family law proceedings, or child welfare proceedings.  The SCC will advise, at its discretion, what Court Records included in the Case File, if any, may be accessed.

3.2.6 Where there is a risk to the physical integrity of a Court Record, the SCC may provide access to the microfilm or digital version instead of the original version.

3.2.7 Print versions of court records transferred to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are available for consultation in accordance with LAC's procedures and policies.

3.2.8 Some court records that are considered to be of a transitory nature may be disposed of in accordance with Information Management policies of the SCC once the Case File for the proceeding is closed and accordingly access to those records may be limited.

4 Definitions

For the purposes of this policy, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

“Access” means the ability to request, view or obtain a copy of a Court Record;

“Case File” means the file maintained by the Records Centre of the SCC for a judicial proceeding that contains court records filed by litigants or produced by the Court. Court records contained in a case file may be in paper, microfilm or digital format;

“Court Record” means any document, correspondence, electronic communication, memorandum or note created or received by the SCC for the purpose of the processing of a judicial proceeding before the Court, with the exception of those documents, correspondence, electronic communications, memorandums or notes that fall under the definition of “Judicial Information”;

“Docket” means the register maintained by the SCC that lists and records all activities in a judicial proceeding;

“Judicial Information” means correspondence, electronic communications, memorandums and notes which are created by a Judge of the SCC, his or her law clerks or SCC court staff, in relation to judicial proceedings before the Court;

“Mediated Access” means access at the SCC building or access that requires the assistance of SCC staff;

“Parties” means all persons named in the style of cause in a judicial proceeding, and for the purposes of this policy, includes their counsel and authorized agent, if any;

“Personal Information” means information about an identifiable individual, including date of birth, identifying numbers such as telephone numbers, social insurance numbers or bank account numbers, addresses, biometrical information such as fingerprints, but does not include the individual's name if he or she is a party to the proceeding or the name and business address of a lawyer who is acting as counsel or agent for any party to a proceeding;

“Registered Access” means access exercised by persons that have been designated by the Registrar as having the right to access court records through a registration process;

“Remote Access” means the ability to access court records without having to be physically present where the records are kept, and without needing the assistance of court staff, through the SCC website or a web portal.

5 How to Access Court Records

5.1 A person may access a Court Record located at the SCC by making a request for Mediated Access by completing the Request for Court Records also available at the SCC Registry.

5.2 Electronic versions of certain court records are available for Remote Access through the SCC website including:

  1. Judgments on appeals
  2. Docket information
  3. Factums on appeal subject to paragraph 3.2.3 above
  4. Webcasts of appeal hearings subject to paragraph 3.2.3 above
  5. Case summaries

5.3  Fees may be payable to the Registrar for services related to Mediated Access to court records, such as photocopies, as set out in Schedule A to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada.  There are no fees for consulting a Case File.

5.4 Copies of an audio recording, video recording or webcast of a hearing of the Court for personal, commercial or educational purposes are available for a fee by completing the Request to Use Court Photographs, Videos or Webcasts.  Copyright conditions may apply.

6 Registered Access

6.1 Registered Access is available for persons who require regular Mediated Access to multiple court records in one Case File, or to single or multiple court records in more than one Case File without having to complete a Request for Court Records each time.

6.2 Registered Access is not required for Remote Access to court records if the intended purpose is consistent with this policy and with copyright and other applicable laws.

6.3 A request for Registered Access should be made in writing to the Registrar and should set out the reason for the request and provide information as to the type of court records that will be accessed.

6.4 The Registrar or his or her delegate shall decide whether the request should be granted and what terms and conditions should be imposed, taking into account the following:

  • The connection between the purposes for which access is sought and the rationale for the constitutional right to open courts;
  • The possibility of a detrimental impact on the rights of individuals and on the proper administration of justice, if the request is granted; and
  • Remedies for improper use of the information contained in the court records to which access is granted.

6.5 An agreement for Registered Access will be valid for 12 months, with the option of renewal at the request of the person.

7 Policy Dissemination

The Court shall inform the public and participants in the judicial system of the extent to which court records are made available to the public, media and parties to judicial proceedings.

8 Policy Review

The Court shall regularly review this policy to ensure that it is maintained up to date and further developed as required.