Want to use the internet in the public spaces in a BC courthouse? The Court Services Branch of BC’s Ministry of Justice reports that it has completed the project begun in 2015 to install WiFi services in courthouses around the province.
In 2014, on behalf of the Court Services Branch, the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services reached an agreement with Shaw Communications to install and support free WiFi services in about 30 BC courthouses at no cost to government. The service was piloted in Victoria in 2015; feedback was positive; and as a result, the initiative was expanded to other courthouses.
The WiFi service is now available in 27 BC court locations, and it’s being well-used. Self-represented litigants, lawyers and other court users all have free access to the internet in courthouse lobbies and waiting areas. Current Shaw clients use Shaw Open while others create a user account to access Shaw Guest services.
However, Court Services Branch staff are not responsible for supporting the WiFi service and it’s not intended to be used for core business purposes. Nor does it share any infrastructure with the court registry or judiciary.
A reminder of the rules
The BC Courts’ policy on the use of Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms sets out the rules for using electronic devices – including all phones, computers, and any device capable of transmitting and/or recording data or audio - inside courtrooms.
While the policy is different for the BC Court of Appeal, inside Provincial and Supreme Court courtrooms, you may not use an electronic device to receive or transmit data, unless you are a lawyer, an accredited journalist, or have the judge's permission. So please turn off cell phones and other devices when you enter a courtroom. If you are conducting a trial without a lawyer and want to use online resources during your trial, ask the judge for permission.
In addition, only accredited media may use an electronic device to record in a courtroom, and then only for note-taking purposes, not for publication. However, the policy does not affect the power of a judge or other judicial officer presiding in a courtroom to determine what use, if any, may be made of an electronic device in a courtroom, and no one may use an electronic device in a courtroom if it interferes with the proceedings.
This policy, developed after consultation with media representatives and civil liberties groups, is an attempt to balance the public’s right to access courts with litigants’ and witnesses’ security and the need to safeguard trial fairness and avoid disrupting proceedings.
For security reasons as well as the privacy and protection of people attending court, no one may take photographs or video inside a BC Provincial courthouse without the permission of the Chief Judge. Members of the media wishing to televise court proceedings in a particular case should make an application to the judge presiding in that case. This and other related policies are set out in the Court’s Access to Court Proceedings Policy.
Court locations with free WiFi
In total, 27 court locations now have WiFi services available:
|Campbell River||Port Alberni|
|Dawson Creek||Robson Square|
|Downtown Community Court||Salmon Arm|
|Fort St. John||Vancouver Law Courts|
|Kamloops||Vancouver Provincial Courthouse|
|Nanaimo Law Courts and Annex||Victoria|
|New Westminster||Western Communities|
The Court Services Branch hopes to increase the coverage at the Surrey Provincial Courthouse to include its expanded and renovated areas. Unfortunately, services could not be enabled in four sites that Shaw assessed as being cost prohibitive due to infrastructure deficiencies: Nelson, North Vancouver, Richmond and Williams Lake.
A list of courthouse locations on the Ministry of Justice website shows whether each location has WiFi access and/or a computer work station (called a “public access terminal”).
Lynda Cavanaugh, Assistant Deputy Minister Court Services Branch, said, “This was a collaborative initiative, which involved approval and support from the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Brooksfield GSI-WSI, the Judiciary, Court Services Branch and, of course, Shaw. We are pleased to be able to offer this useful service to court users without expenditure by government.”