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The Supreme Court of Canada confirms that informer privilege is a “near absolute” exception to court openness

Date Closed

June 7, 2024

Lead Office


On June 7, 2024, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered Canadian Broadcasting Corp. v Named Person, 2024 SCC 21. McCarthy Tétrault acted as the solicitor for the intervener, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The case arose from a controversial “secret trial” in Quebec, in which an accused police informer’s identity was shielded through numerous confidentiality measures. This included withholding personal details, the nature of the offences, and even the identities of the judge and counsel involved. The trial’s secrecy sparked public debate and the media appealed, leading to the Supreme Court’s decision.

The Supreme Court’s decision emphasizes the crucial role of informer privilege in aiding criminal investigations and maintaining public safety. Nonetheless, the Court acknowledged the importance of transparency and rejected the notion that “secret trials” exist in Canadian law. It clarified that confidential proceedings must be documented and traceable, ensuring accountability within the justice system.

This landmark ruling serves as a reminder of the lengths to which the judiciary will go to protect the identities of those who provide confidential information to law enforcement, while reaffirming the notion that informer privilege, while nearly absolute, does not entirely eclipse the need for open court proceedings.

McCarthy Tétrault acted for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association with a team led by Adam Goldenberg that included Simon Bouthillier.