When Balancing Fundamental Rights, Remedies Should Be Sought Before Placing Any Limit on Either One
Par Sarah D. Pinsonnault, avocate
By Sarah D. Pinsonnault
On October 15th 2014, the Superior Court granted the Public Curator’s motion for provisional injunction in Québec (Curateur public) c. Bell Media inc., 2014 QCCS 4919. As a result, Bell Media was ordered to suspend its scheduled broadcast of a TV episode that re-enacted the murder scene committed by the individual who, being found not criminally responsible for this act, was placed under the Public Curator’s administration (“Mr. M”). A summary of this decision can be read here. In short, the rights to privacy and security of Mr. M trumped, at the provisional stage of the proceedings, Bell Media’s right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to information. However, when this matter was heard on the merits of the permanent injunction on October 31st 2014, in Québec (Curateur public) c. Bell Média inc., 2015 QCCS 165, the Public Curator’s motion was dismissed because the infringement of Mr. M’s fundamental rights was not without remedy. We are therefore reminded in this decision that when the injunctive relief sought impinges on fundamental rights, other remedies must be looked at before any violation of the latter may be permitted.
The first step in the Court’s analysis was to determine whether the Public Curator proved the existence of a potential infringement of Mr. M’s fundamental rights. While neither a violation of Mr. M’s privacy nor a risk of his physical harm were found, it was acknowledged that the broadcast of this episode carried a tangible risk of harm to Mr. M’s psychological health; in that it could quite potentially exacerbate the psychotic symptoms he suffers from and affect his overall rehabilitation process.
With that in mind, the Court then had to decide if the infringements of Bell Media’s right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to information – both innately resulting from the injunction in question – were the only reasonable solutions in these circumstances.
The Court responded negatively to this question and found that the Public Curator could easily make alternate arrangements to prevent Mr. M from viewing this episode, such as restricting his access to the television. Accordingly, it concluded as follows:
“ Pour émettre une injonction dans un contexte semblable à celui de l’instance, il faut non seulement prouver le préjudice, mais également l’absence de remèdes raisonnables autres que l’injonction qui entraîne la limitation d’un droit protégé, comme façon d’en éviter la survenance.
 Sur ce critère, le Curateur échoue. En effet, l’émission d’une injonction entraînerait des effets préjudiciables plus importants sur la liberté d’expression que son absence sur les droits de monsieur M…. De plus, il existe des mesures raisonnables qui peuvent écarter le risque qu’appréhende le Curateur.
 POUR CES MOTIFS, LE TRIBUNAL :
 REJETTE la requête;
 SANS FRAIS. ”
To read this decision in its entirety, click here.