June 15, 2017: In a tiny Ottawa courtroom, a jurisdiction hearing is held. The case considered in the hearing is a complicated mix of advertising regulations, municipal advertising contracts, religious privilege, discriminatory government funding practices and most essentially of all, the freedom of expression. The case is further complicated by a span of more than two thousand kilometers and a provincial boundary.
A jurisdiction hearing is a legal process to determine the appropriate Court for consideration of a legal matter. In Canada, different types of courts each have their own jurisdiction (see Department of Justice for more information). Resolution of any legal dispute is initially a matter of determining the appropriate Court.
In that little Ottawa courtroom, a legal fight to defend a fundamental human right is tentatively underway; a variety of subtleties, complexities and barriers presented by legal process can suddenly and unexpectedly become significant considerations. What if the appropriate Court for the case is located two thousand kilometers from home?
Going into the room, the complainant understands that there are two probable outcomes of the hearing: the case will be considered a matter for a court in either Ontario or Manitoba. A decision for Ontario might, logistically, be easier to manage. It’s always convenient to be close to home. In addition, the content of the dispute, advertising material relating to the funding of Catholic schools in Ontario, would also be highly topical to an Ontario court and local media. Alternatively, a decision that the case should be heard in Manitoba might, strategically, be preferable as well. Given the location of Canada’s Museum of Human Rights and that same local topicality of the subject matter – being a bit further from home could be a benefit.
In the end, the decision was that the appropriate Court to hear the case would be based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Leaving the courtroom, the complainant now knows where, and how, his rights must be defended.