Application for non-profit investigation as open as any court proceeding, SKCA

On June 20th, the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan affirmed the lifting of a sealing order and publication ban over arguments made by a non-profit corporation that its mandate warranted an exception to the general rule of court openness.

The corporation was subject to an application for an inspection under section 214 of The Non-Profit Corporations Act of Saskatchewan based on alleged misuse of funds by its Executive Director. The corporation provides shelter and sustenance to impoverished and at-risk clientele, and argued its ability to provide these services would be impeded by the conduct of an open hearing, in particular before its holiday fundraising drive. It further argued that an application for inspection under section 214 was an “investigatory proceeding” in which it was more likely that “incomplete and misleading” subject matter would be aired.

The Court disagreed with the corporation. Although harm to the corporation’s vulnerable clientele could constitute a “serious risk to an important public interest” (as required for a discretionary order that limits openness), the corporation’s case for harm was too speculative, lacking particulars as to when and what clients would likely be affected. In rejecting the corporation’s broader argument about investigatory proceedings, the Court said, “The open courtprinciple applies to all manner of proceedings, absent valid legislation which limits its application.”

Windels v Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2022 SKCA 72 (CanLII)https://canlii.ca/t/jpw4q.