A judge has banned a Winnipeg Free Press reporter from covering a controversial child custody hearing after the paper published a story Wednesday identifying a witness.
Provincial legislation prohibits the naming of any parties testifying in child protection cases.
Radio station CJOB identified the same witness on air and online but did not face a similar sanction. Justice Marianne Rivoalen said she did not have enough details about CJOB's breach to ban the station's reporter from court.
The case involves two young children seized by Child and Family Services after one was sent to school with a swastika and racist writings drawn on her body. CFS is seeking permanent guardianship of the children, arguing the parents are unfit to care for them.
Crown attorney Issie Frost, representing the Child Protection Branch, argued both the Free Press and CJOB should be banned entirely from covering the case.
Their actions "show an absolute disregard for previous communications this court has had with the press," Frost said.
The incident comes three weeks after Global television violated the same publication ban when it aired footage revealing the names of the children's parents.
"I do not understand why this issue has raised its head once more in this courtroom," Frost said. "A slap on the wrist isn't going to do it here."
Free Press lawyer Nicole Watson said the paper's court reporter, Mike McIntyre, mistakenly believed the publication ban did not extend to expert witnesses.
"It was inadvertent," Watson said. "He had the perception (the witness) was in a different category than lay witnesses."
Rivoalen rejected the explanation.
"In my mind, a witness is a witness is a witness," she said. "In my mind it's unbelievable that this could happen again."
Earlier this year, the court rejected a motion by CFS to ban the media from attending the court proceedings.
The media is "in a privileged position to be sitting here so they should be very careful about what they are saying," Rivoalen said.
Rivoalen said she was prepared to allow the Free Press to continue covering the case, but with a different reporter.
She also ordered McIntyre, the Free Press, and CJOB to deliver a written apology to the identified witness, the court and the children's parents.
By DEAN PRITCHARD
This judge, Marianne Rivoalen, is a dinosaur.
Horsesh1te I say.The media is "in a privileged position to be sitting here so they should be very careful about what they are saying," Rivoalen said.
These antiquated thinking judges need to climb up out of the dark ages of our judicial system. Our justice system should be wide open for all, to see that justice is getting done.