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According to this government website, a publication ban is defined as:

A publication ban is an order the Court makes that prevents anyone from publishing, broadcasting, or sending any information that could identify a victim, witness, or other person who participates in the criminal justice system. The publication ban is intended to allow victims, witnesses, and others to participate in the justice system without suffering negative consequences.

But do these bans also apply to the contents of court documents themselves? For instance, this court document.

Would I be allowed to talk about this on TV? Write about it on a website? Distribute copies of this PDF online/in-person?

Also what on earth does the sentence "These Reasons have been edited for publication purposes" mean?

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  • It is possible in some cases to filed documents in court under seal. There was a common law privilege against civil liability of the person filing them for all materials in court documents, but I don't know if Canada has abrogated that rule.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 6, 2022 at 21:44

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The publication ban applies universally, even to the court's own publication of the reasons. The court will not typically publish material in violation of its own publication bans. The judgment you cite says, "These Reasons have been edited for publication purposes." That normally means that the reasons as published have been edited with that publication ban in mind. However, the wording of that publication ban seems to encompass information that is apparently in the published reasons, which is perplexing.

A good publication-ban notice will indicate the statutory or inherent jurisdiction under which the ban was granted, the specific category of information prohibited from dissemination, and the time scope of the ban.

The actual drafting of the language of the ban in a judgment is up to the judge and court practices.

A much better example is this one:

Pursuant to s. 486.4, s. 486.5 and the inherent jurisdiction of the Court, information that may identify certain witnesses and undercover police officers may not be published, broadcast or transmitted in any manner. All other publication ban orders issued during this proceeding have expired. This version of the Reasons for Judgment complies with the existing publication bans.

It would be even better if it were to explicitly say it applies indefinitely or until further court order.

A pretty perfect example is this one:

A publication ban has been imposed under s. 486.5 of the Criminal Code restricting the publication, broadcasting or transmission in any way of evidence that could identify a victim/witness/undercover officer, referred to in this judgment by initials. This publication ban applies indefinitely unless otherwise ordered.

This is good because it identifies which people publications cannot identify (victims, witnesses, or undercover officers, who are referred to in the judgment by initials), it states the statutory source of the ban, and it identifies the length of the ban.

In the case of the example you provide, I would reach out to the court registry or communication officer to get more details about the ban before publishing anything about the case.

Also, while the reasons themself may not identify the victim/witness/etc., a third-party publication might combine together information in a way that "could identify" them. Publications are prohibited from doing this. Publications must also not republish information that could identify the protected person even if that information was inadvertently left in the published reasons of the court.

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  • So just to be very clear, in this example: The defendant is not protected. The victim, crown witnesses, and/or undercover officers are.
    – AlanSTACK
    Dec 6, 2022 at 23:34

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