Mr. G v. British Columbia College of Teachers,  B.C.J. No. 944, British Columbia Supreme Court, May 7, 2004, Burnyeat J.
Mr. G applied for leave to commence an appeal of the College decision by identifying himself only as “Mr. G”, with his children and the primary complainant also being identified only by initials. Mr. G argued that publication of his full name prior to the appeal being heard on the merits would render the appeal moot and would cause irreparable harm to his reputation and to his ability to teach.
The College countered with the submission that the presumption of openness of court and all of its proceedings ought to prevail.
The Court reviewed the jurisprudence on applications for anonymity and then considered the decisions in Mitchell v. British Columbia College of Teachers, a case that was held to be factually distinguishable because Ms. Mitchell’s name had already been used in the style of cause in an appeal from the decision of the College, meaning that the “damage was already done” and so the application for anonymity was dismissed.
The Court acknowledged that a number of cases not considered in Mitchell clearly established an exception to the general rule that a private interest or embarrassment is not enough to justify impeding the principle of openness of court proceedings. The Court articulated the exception as follows:
…a Court may sit in camera or allow anonymity where the administration of justice would be rendered impracticable, the subject matter of the action would be destroyed by a hearing in open court, a professional reputation would be damaged unnecessarily, the disclosure of the names of the intended plaintiff would effectively destroy the right of confidentiality sought in the matter which will be before the Court so that the very issue to be heard on the appeal would be made moot, anonymity is required in order to protect the right to a fair trial, the disclosure of the name would effectively destroy the right to confidentiality until the appeal could be heard, or where the appeal might not be launched at all if anonymity was not available. (para. 32)
The Court also referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v. Mentuck  2 W.W.R. 409 (S.C.C.), where a confidentiality order was allowed to protect the identity of undercover officers on the basis that it was needed to protect the proper administration of justice.
The presumption of openness of all court proceedings was held to have been overcome by the necessity of providing a fair hearing, which would require anonymity in order to maintain confidentiality. The public right to know of the discipline of teachers would be served by publishing what had occurred to date using only initials, with a subsequent publication of the full name of Mr. G if his appeal was unsuccessful. Mr. G’s application for anonymity was allowed.
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