Canadian Press Banned from Linking to Non-Canadian Sites Talking about Canadian Robert Pickton Murder Trial
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Robert Pickton. If his name means nothing to you, and you are not from Canada, that’s no surprise. But if a Canadian court’s press ban is successful, the name Robert Pickton won’t mean much more to Canadian citizens either, despite the fact that he is the focus of a sensational murder trial in Vancouver right now.

Many people outside Canada, and particularly in the United States, are not aware of this but the good citizens of Canada do not enjoy the same prohibition against prior restraint of press (i.e. a press ban) as do those in the United States. This means that the Canadian press can have a press ban issued against it, being told in advance “you cannot write about this”.


Yes, really.

This is something which is no surprise to Canadians, and others in many parts of the world, but which is completely alien to United States citizens.

And so it was, several years ago, for example, that the Canadian courts issued a press ban in the infamous case of Karla Homolka, and her Svengali-style lover whom, she claimed, convinced her to commit some extremely heinous acts against children. The courts at the time were concerned in part that wide-spread press coverage, particularly given the nature of the acts, would make an impartial trial impossible.

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And so, information about the trial was posted all over Usenet (an Internet bulletin-board style messaging system back in the old days..think Google groups) – in the United States – and news-hungry Canadians accessed this information.

The Internet, after all, is essentially borderless.

Now, hip to the borderless nature of the Internet in a way that they were not those many years ago, a Canadian court has just issued a press ban in the Robert Pickton case, but with a twist.

 

They have also issued an order banning the press from publishing any Internet addresses which have information about the case.

So not only can they not talk about the case, but they can’t even talk about places that are talking about the case.

Because, you know, Canadians don’t know how to use Google.

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2 thoughts on “Canadian Press Banned from Linking to Non-Canadian Sites Talking about Canadian Robert Pickton Murder Trial
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  1. I think that what is important here is the understanding that the Canadian sensibility prefers to know the facts without inviting prurient or exploitative interest. The press ban is there to attempt to insure a fair trial without too much media sensationalism. I cannot see a problem with that. However, alongside that reasoning, there is another aspect to the press ban. There is a huge discussion within the Canadian community through its media outlets which is more invested in discussing the question of how much should be revealed to the public and how much we as Canadians really want and need to know. There is a sense of respect for people who have lost family members in tragedies like this, and as such, there is a tendency to agree that we do not need to know every sordid detail – rather, the general information is adequate without getting too graphic. Canadians view this as a “safe” soft law, which is intended to protect children and those who may have difficulty in knowing the more horrific details of such a crime. Canadians are entitled to the basic information, and yes, we all know how to use Google, so those with a deep interest in details have the freedom to pursue as much information as they so please. But the general idea is to protect the general public from the unnecessary graphic details – to avoid disturbing information being passed out to those who might be upset. While persons from outside Canada may view this as some kind of censorship, the truth is available to those who desire it, while the innocent of society do not have to be subjected to sensationalist information. I’m satisfied with this approach to a terrible event, and I hope Canada will continue to utilize this approach in the interest of fairness in trials and the protection of the innocent.

  2. And, of course, a popular Minnesota-based blog got into hot water just a few months ago for publishing information regarding Canada’s “sponsorship” scandal in the Gomery Inquiry.

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