Winnipeg media apply to broadcast trial of Tina Fontaine's accused killer

A group of Winnipeg-based media organizations is fighting for the right to broadcast video of the trial of Raymond Cormier, the man facing second-degree murder charges in the 2014 death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.

Winnipeg-based media file motion to get cameras in court during trial of Raymond Cormier

Manitoba's courts have allowed media to broadcast and live stream a handful of court cases since 2014, including the final ruling in the trial of Andrea Giesbrecht in February 2017. (Chris Glover/CBC)

The CBC and a group of Winnipeg-based media organizations have banded together to fight for the right to bring cameras into the courtroom during the trial of the man accused of killing Tina Fontaine.

Raymond Cormier was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Fontaine, who was 15 when she was killed, wrapped in a bag and dumped in the Red River in August 2014.

A trial date hasn't been set, but CBC News, CTV, Global News and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network have jointly filed a motion to be allowed to broadcast the proceedings.

If the application is successful, it would be the first time in Manitoba history a trial involving witness testimony would be broadcast.

Raymond Cormier (right) is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tina Fontaine (left).

The media group argues the public has a constitutional right to access the trial through a variety of platforms, and regards any restriction of access to the trial as a violation of freedom of the press under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"The open court principle is of crucial importance in a democratic society and modern realities of communication and information dissemination permit a more flexible understanding of what is required to ensure courtrooms are adequately accessible to the public," says the motion filed in the Court of Queen's Bench.

The broadcasters argue the case has significant national interest and many people living in remote communities would not have the ability to attend the trial.

If granted access, CBC News intends to broadcast the trial on radio and television and live online.

Cameras in court

The first Canadian case that allowed media to record video in court happened in 1981. At the time, heavy cameras, cumbersome recording equipment and bright lights added to concerns about how the media presence might interfere with proceedings.

But there has been a push in recent years for courts to be more open to the public, and Manitoba has been among the jurisdictions leading the way.

A group of top Manitoba judges called for increased transparency in court a few years ago. A 2014 pilot project involving the Court of Queen's Bench, the Court of Appeal and provincial court allowed some hearings to be recorded on video.

More recently, media were given a chance to live stream the final ruling in the case of  Andrea Giesbrecht in February. CBC News carried the live feed online as provincial court Judge Murray Thompson found Giesbrecht guilty of disposing of the remains of six infants in a U-Haul storage locker.

A hearing on whether cameras will be allowed will begin June 12. Anyone wishing to intervene on the camera access application has until May 23 to file an application and brief with the courts.