The judges of the Supreme Court of Canada have ensured that documents disclosing their secret inner workings will not be revealed during their lifetime – and possibly ever.
The court has placed a 50-year embargo on public access to files related to the deliberations of the judges, from the time they rule on a case.
The restriction took effect last June when the court and Library and Archives Canada announced it as part of an agreement to “ensure that the case files of Canada’s highest court will be preserved and accessible to future generations.” (The announcement went largely unnoticed at the time.)
What the court and the archives did not say, but the agreement makes clear, is that the Supreme Court can withdraw the files at any time, and keep the documents secret forever, without providing a justification.
The agreement means that while the Supreme Court enjoys huge influence over Canadian life and politics – through rulings on such cases on gay marriage, assisted dying and even the possible breakup of Canada itself − those seeking to understand how it went about exercising its power will lose the possibility of access to a major source of documentary evidence.