The Highest Court In The Land on The Open Court Principle

In its 1989 decision in EDMONTON JOURNAL v. ALBERTA (ATTORNEY GENERAL) [1989] 2 S.C.R. 1326 >>, the Supreme Court of Canada stated: "The concept of free and uninhibited speech permeates all truly democratic societies and institutions." The Court went on to explain the importance of that statement in the context of the principle of open courts .....

" As a reuslt of their significance, the courts must be open to public scrutiny and to public criticism of their operation by the public .... the public interest in open trials and in the ability of the press to provide complete reports of what takes place in the courtroom is rooted in the need:
to maintain an effective evidentiary process
to ensure a judiciary and juries that behave fairly and that are sensitive to the values espoused by society
to promote a shared sense that our courts operate with integrity and dispense justice

to provide an ongoing opportunity for the community to learn how the justice system operates and how the law being applied daily in our courts affects them"

Judicial Independence

Read more about the parallel
principles of
"Judicial Independence"
"Open Courts"


Parallel to the principle of Open Courts, is the principle of Judicial Independence. The Canadian Constitution guarantees Judges their independence - not for their benefit but for the benefit of those who appear before them in Court.

This principle ensures that anyone who has to go to Court will receive a fair and impartial hearing free of outside influence from institutions, corporations, groups, individuals and governments.

The Judiciary is the Third Branch of governance in Canada; however, it is independent of Government.

The other two Branches, the Executive Branch (Federal & Provincial Cabinets) and the Legislative Branch (Parliament & the Provincial Legislatures), make the laws. Judges apply them in the Courts. So, an independent Judiciary also guarantees that governments act within the Constitution.


Access To The Courts And Their Records


In collaboration with the media, the Nova Scotia Judiciary has developed guidelines and related policies for media and public access to courthouses and court files and records.

Go to the GUIDELINES REGARDING MEDIA AND PUBLIC ACCESS >> to view an interactive PDF of the guidelines. In the table of contents, simply click on a heading and it will connect you to that section within the document.

The Open Court Principle not only means that members of the public have a right to attend Court to watch trials and other proceedings. It also means the public can get access, within certain limits and under some conditions, to the files and records of the Courts.

Generally, the public's access to courthouses, courtrooms, court files, and information is the same as the media's. However, because the media are still the public's main "window" into Canada's courtrooms, the Courts afford journalists additional access rights, within certain limits and under some conditions, that are not available to the public.
Information about media and public access can be found at: INFORMATION FOR THE MEDIA >>

All decisions of the Courts (except those in the Youth Justice Court and the Family Court) are available for public viewing. As decisions are released, most are posted on this website's RECENT DECISIONS PAGE >>
Decisions of the Nova Scotia Courts, going back to 2003, are compiled in a searchable DECISIONS DATABASE >>

Representing Yourself In The Courts

For more information about representing yourself in Court
and links to similar resources
on other websites


The Open Court Principle also means that you may represent yourself in Court (except in Bankruptcy Court where you must act through a Trustee in Bankruptcy). However, legal and court proceedures can be complicated. There are often many documents to be filled out, witnesses to subpoena, rules governing the admissibility of evidence in court, and so on.
If you are not, and cannot become, sufficiently familar with legal and court procedures and with the law as it applies to your case, then you may want to reconsider self-representation and hire a lawyer, instead.

There are many resources available, both on this website and on others maintained by groups working in the justice system, for people who are considering representing themselves.
Most of the Nova Scotia Courts provide some information on how you can represent yourself. It is found on the individual Court's web page. Click on the "LEVEL OR TYPE OF COURT" drop-down menu at the upper left to select the Court you will appear in.