The Last Word: Media Coverage of the Supreme Court of Canada.


260 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1243-5
DDC 347.71'035





Alexander David Kurke is a criminal lawyer in Sudbury, Ontario.


This book examines the interplay between the news media and the Supreme Court of Canada. In a lengthy introduction, the authors discuss the important relationship between the court and the press. Depending on one’s viewpoint, the Supreme Court can be seen as a bastion of federalism by Quebecers, a bulwark of individual rights, or an anti-democratic and unaccountable super-legislature. Much criticism of the court can be stoked or defused by the spin put on the court’s decisions by the press in its reportage.


In the first chapter, the authors consider media coverage of the Supreme Court from 2000–01. Through analysis of news reports in newspaper and television, the authors demonstrate that a few cases drew the bulk of media attention, with Robert Latimer’s life sentence for murder receiving the lion’s share of media interest. Not surprisingly, institutional analysis by the press often focused on the court’s relationship with Parliament, and whether the court was too activist.


In the following chapters (two through five), the authors consider the media reporting in four closely watched cases. In Vriend, reporting shifted away from whether equal protection should be afforded gays and lesbians, and toward a denunciation of Alberta for not offering that protection. Sovereigntists applauded the court’s decision in the Quebec Secession Reference for affirming the province’s ability to secede. A clarifying second decision in the Marshall case led to speculation that the Supreme Court bowed to public fears over unfettered Aboriginal rights. The decision in the Sharpe case provoked Parliament’s amendment of child pornography laws.


In Chapter 6 the authors discuss the symbiotic relationship of the court and the press. Both gain by working together, though the court gains more through control of the message by its executive legal officer and the general lack of legal knowledge by members of the press. In the book’s conclusion, the authors discuss the inevitable tension between court and press: how do you present legal reasoning in sexy and appealing ways?


This is a well-written book that would provide a good introduction to its topic for law or journalism students in courses on law and the media.


Sauvageau, Florian, David Schneiderman, and David Taras., “The Last Word: Media Coverage of the Supreme Court of Canada.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,