AB v Bragg: SCC to Rule on Anonymity in Judicial Proceedings
CIPPIC recently intervened in A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc., a case that puts at issue the amount of anonymity litigants can claim in judicial processes. A.B. was a 15 year old victim of an online cyberbullying campaign that included the creation of an allegedly fake Facebook profile of her that attributed to her licentious sexual preferences and attitudes. A.B. sued, but wished to proceed anonymously, claiming that proceeding under her real name would defeat the very reason for the lawsuit by subjecting her to further ridicule from her peers. It would further impact on her privacy rights, implicating her right to be left alone and her dignity and self-worth.
CIPPIC argued that, while care must be taken not to impact too heavily on freedom of expression and on the open court principle (which holds that justice must be seen to be done), conflicts between fundamental rights such as privacy and freedom of expression must be carefully weighed in context. In particular, the Court's historic aversion to permitting anonymous litigants except in isolated scenarios needs to be re-examined. In light of the growing permanence, accessibility and searchability of court judgments, the privacy concerns in such scenarios are heightened and must be carefully weighed against countervailing freedom of expression concerns, in context. Proceeding anonymoulsy, particularly in a civil lawsuit, will often impact only slightly on freedom of expression and the open court principle, as there will be little public interest in the identity of the specific individual.