A group of judges and other members of the justice system are proposing a set of national guidelines that would throw the courts wide open to the use of social media.
There currently exists a patchwork of policies among provinces some have no policy at all and the Canadian Centre for Court Technology's proposed guidelines go farther than them all.
It is suggesting that anyone attending an open court hearing be allowed to use electronic devices set to silent or vibrate mode unless the presiding judge specifically rules otherwise. The user would bear the onus of abiding by any publication bans.
It's an attempt to create a standard set of rules for courts across the country at a time when judges are grappling with how to handle the still relatively new phenomenon of services such as Twitter and Facebook.
Like it or not, they are here to stay and growing numbers of people depend on them for information, said Stephen Bindman, who was part of the court technology center's committee that drafted the guidelines.
"Public confidence in the judicial system is critical to the proper administration of justice," he said at the center's conference in Montreal. "We saw this as a further means of advancing the open court principle."
British Columbia and Saskatchewan both brought in new policies last month allowing "accredited journalists" and lawyers to use electronic devices in trial courts, with Saskatchewan even specifying that they may tweet from the courtroom.
Many provinces allow anyone to use such devices in appeal courts, as fears about witnesses and juries are largely moot there. Nova Scotia expressly allows tweeting from its Appeal Court, but not from the lower courts by anyone without the judge's permission.
Ontario has seen judges in several high-profile cases attempt to tackle the issue, but still there is no provincewide policy. Tweeting was allowed at the trial of former Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien, who was ultimately acquitted of influence peddling. It was allowed in London, but only in an overflow courtroom, at the trial of Michael Rafferty, who was convicted of abducting, sexually assaulting and murdering eight-year-old Victoria Stafford. It was banned outright in Kingston at the so-called honour killing trial of the Shafia family.
When discussing the guidelines the committee concluded that though there are risks to allowing social media in courts disruption to the proceedings, violating publication bans and security of witnesses practicality, as well as the open courts principle, steered them away from an outright ban.