A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to a law that would have allowed British Columbians to access legal services online in a way that would not have been possible in Canada.
The Windsor-Essex Chief Justice Ian Gordon said in his decision that there was no evidence that the law could be used to circumvent access to a court.
The Crown has appealed the ruling.
Mr Gordon said the Windsor-Cedar Falls law was based on a “broad interpretation of Canadian law” and that he was concerned that the wording was too broad.
“The proposed law would have permitted access to justice only if a person had obtained an affidavit confirming that they were the person in the picture,” he said.
In his ruling, Mr Gordon said a court “is a public forum and a forum in which to make claims, and a court cannot be used as a ‘public forum’ by virtue of a blanket statement that a law is valid or invalid”.
Mr Justice Gordon said he was satisfied that the proposed law was “not likely to have been applied” to British Columbias courts.
He said it was “very difficult” to determine whether it was in fact “in the public interest to be allowed to use a court as a public platform for such a purpose”.
He noted that a majority of British Columbia’s judges and justices “do not rely on any affidavit or any evidence of the person being the person”.
“That is not to say that the requirement to be ‘on duty’ or ‘on the bench’ in a court does not apply,” he wrote.
British Columbias Chief Justice says the Windsor law would not be applied in his jurisdiction, but does not rule out it.
His decision was also a setback to the Crown, which had argued the law was needed because of “continued and escalating violence” in Windsor and that it would make it harder for people to access justice.
A spokesman for Mr Gordon, who is a former federal judge, said in a statement that he “was disappointed with the Chief Justice’s decision”.
The Windsor-Eskimos law would allow Windsor residents to access judicial services by calling in to the court system.
Its main purpose is to allow British Columbian citizens to seek judicial services when they need them, such as for court hearings or criminal matters.
For example, the government is appealing a lower court decision that found Windsor residents who needed a criminal conviction dismissed could not access court services.
It said the Crown did not argue in court that Windsor residents should be denied access to the justice system.