March 19, 2012
Cameras should be allowed for James' sentencing: Critic
By Paul Turenne, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Tory justice critic Kelvin Goertzen says the sentencing of convicted pedophile Graham James would have been a perfect opportunity for the provincial government to get cameras in court.
He said the government appears happy to let courts deal with the issue, even though former justice minister Dave Chomiak said years ago that cameras ought to be allowed in court.
"I was particularly disappointed the government lawyer argued against it (in the James case) when it was the government who five years ago said that it would be a good idea," Goertzen said. "They've completely deferred this issue to the judges and the reality is there's going to have to be some political leadership on it."
Goertzen said he supports the idea of cameras in court, except in certain cases where witnesses might need to be protected, or in other similar circumstances.
In March 2007, Chomiak said he believed both the government and courts wanted to see cameras allowed into hearings.
"We probably should have done it a long time ago," Chomiak said at the time.
A spokeswoman for current Justice Minister Andrew Swan said the government still supports the idea, but leaves it to the courts to decide.
"We continue to believe that cameras have a legitimate role to play in the courtroom and that it is most appropriate for judges to make the decision as to when and where they are allowed," she said.
In 2009, a committee made up of media members, court personnel and other stakeholders studied the issue of media access to Manitoba's courts and submitted a report to the heads of the province's three levels of court. Manitoba's courts then decided to endorse a process where media can apply for access to individual cases, but the decision is up to the presiding judge.
"If cameras are permitted it will, needless to say, not be an unfettered or unqualified access and restrictions and qualifications will reflect the parameters considered in the protocol and stipulated by the judge," a courts spokeswoman said Monday.