In Ontario, the courts are committed to upholding the open court principle, which ensures that all hearings, including virtual hearings, are accessible to the public and media. However, it is sometimes necessary for the court to order a publication ban to protect the fairness and integrity of the case, the privacy or safety of a victim or witness, or the identity of a child or youth. Publication bans prevent certain information about the case from being published by anyone in any document, broadcast or transmitted in any way, including social media. They may be automatic, mandatory upon request or ordered at the discretion of the court.

The information contained in this page is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any legal questions, you should see a lawyer.

Types of publication bans

There are several federal and provincial laws that permit and require publication bans depending on the case. The judge overseeing the case also has legal authority to order a publication ban in certain situations.

Publication bans under legislation

Many publication bans are covered under legislation in Canada. These include:

  • Criminal Code. There are various sections under the Criminal Code that allow for publication bans. Some areas that bans can apply to include:
    • information that could identify a victim or witness in sexual offences
    • the sexual history of a victim
    • victims under the age of 18
    • the victim or witness’ private information in cases involving sexual offences
    • information from bail hearings and preliminary hearings
    • information identifying a juror
    • information heard when the jury is not present
  • The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) prohibits the publication of any information that could identify a young person under the age of 18 as having been dealt with under the Act. The Act also does not permit publication of any information that could identify a victim or witness under the age of 18 in a criminal matter involving a young person. Publication is permitted if the young person received an adult sentence.

In Ontario, under the Provincial Offences Act the court may prohibit the publication or broadcast of the identity of a young person or of the evidence taken at a hearing.

  • Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 (CYFSA) Under this provincial legislation, child protection hearings are not available to the public, unless the court orders otherwise. The CYFSA also prevents publication of, or making public any information that could identify:
    • a child who is a witness at or a participant in a child protection hearing or is the subject of a child protection proceeding.
    • The child’s parent(s), foster parent(s) or family members.
  • The court may also make an order excluding any or all media from a child protection hearing, or prohibiting the publication of any information about the hearing if it could cause emotional harm to a child who is a participant, witness or subject of the proceeding.

Publication bans under common law

Courts also have authority under the common law to order publication bans when necessary to prevent a serious risk to the proper administration of justice, and where alternative measures will not prevent the risk. Courts will weigh the various rights and principles, including the right to a fair and public trial, the right to freedom of expression, and the effectiveness of the administration of justice when deciding if a publication ban is necessary.

Contact information

If you would like to know if a publication ban exists in a particular case, you should ask the staff at the court office where the case is being heard. Find a courthouse here.

For media seeking information or documents, the first point of contact is the local court counter staff.

Please note that court staff are not able to provide legal advice about publication bans or other matters.