An Alberta court has sided with a person seeking to shelter their identity as part of a suit against the federal government, a matter the judge says brings into “sharp relief” the tension between the public’s right to open courts and an individual’s right to privacy.
The plaintiff, who is identified only as AB, has launched a claim against Veterans Affairs Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion and employees of both organizations, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, breach of privacy and waiver of tort. AB says their personal information was accessed and disclosed without consent during their attempts to financial support and medical treatment for alleged injuries suffered during their time with the Canadian Armed Forces.
And Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Craig Jones has approved AB’s requests for anonymization and sealing orders in the case, as well as a publication ban on all details that could lead to identification of AB by name. The court looked at the test outlined by the Supreme Court (in Sherman Estate v. Donovan 2021 SCC 25) for such orders — that court openness poses a serious risk to an important public interest; that the order sought is necessary to prevent that serious risk because reasonable alternative measures are not available; and the benefits of the order outweigh the negative effects on a proportional basis.
Justice Jones wrote there is a serious risk to AB’s dignity because the issues in the pleadings include stigmatized medical conditions and that disclosure of that information to even one person would compromise AB’s ability to control how they are perceived by others.
“And their right to effect that control is of superordinate importance,” he wrote. “Further, I find that their concerns are objectively reasonable because they engage intimate details of their experiences and about them as a