Category: Defamation and Libel


For Pre-Trial Issues, It’s Not a Matter of Proof: Gaur v Datta

Judges should assume facts in claims are true when considering whether to strike out a pleading under Rule 21 of Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rules”). In a case earlier this month, Gaur v Datta, 2015 ONCA 151, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a motion judge’s ruling in a 3-0 decision, allowing the appellants to proceed with their cause of action. Rule 21.01(1)(b) states that a party can make a motion asking a judge to “strike out a pleading on the ground that it discloses no reasonable cause of action or defence.” At this stage, no evidence is admissible...


Defamation, Absolute Privilege, and Sexual Assault: Caron v A

In Caron v A, 2015 BCCA 47 [Caron], the British Columbia Court of Appeal (“BCCA”) was tasked with determining whether complaints to the police should be protected by absolute privilege, and thus, not actionable for defamation. In concluding that qualified, not absolute, privilege applied, the BCCA supported the long-standing truth that protection of reputation is tied to the “innate worthiness and dignity of the individual” (Hill v Church of Scientology, [1995] 2 SCR 1130, para 107 [Hill]). While the court did come to the just result in this case, it also failed to engage with the worrisome implications of its ruling on sexual assault...


The Ghomeshi Scandal: Prompting an Important Discussion on Sexual Assault

Jian Ghomeshi was fired from CBC on October 26, 2014 after CBC received evidence that he had caused physical injury to a woman. In response, Ghomeshi filed a $55 million lawsuit alleging defamation and breach of confidence against his former employer. He also submitted a union grievance alleging wrongful dismissal and defamation. Many legal experts dismissed his suit as an impossible case to win, and instead attributed it to a PR maneuver. As a unionized bargaining unit employee, Ghomeshi cannot sue in court for wrongful dismissal.


Rob Ford’s Trial by Media and the Innocents Caught in the Undertow

These days, the pen (or, perhaps, the keyboard) is truly mightier than the sword. Pens shape public perception, and that power endures beyond borders and beyond lifetimes in our digital age of information. But as the adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility. The international media frenzy surrounding the Rob Ford saga has intensified over the past week to levels never before seen by Torontonians, and the power of the pen in this sordid affair has become ever more prominent. By now, the video of Rob Ford’s reply to allegations of sexually harassing a female staffer – which he...


When do Ad Hominem Attacks in the Blogosphere Attract Civil Liability? Ontario Court of Appeal Sets Stage for Latest Fight in Growing Body of Internet Defamation Jurisprudence

At some point, we’ve all been there. Be it on Facebook, Twitter, or as the case was for John Baglow and Roger Smith, on a blog, many could quite easily recall an instance in which he or she took to the Internet to discuss the issues of the day. Surely, one need not spend hours poring over Andrew Coyne’s Twitter feed or a popular blog to get a sense of the tenor of these digital debates, which can range from the reserved and civil to the “caustic, strident or even vulgar and insulting.” With online political discourse now getting personal with stunning quickness...


Breeden v Black and Éditions Écosociété v Banro: Exercising Jurisdiction in Multijurisdictional Defamation Cases

In the companion cases of Breeden v Black, 2012 SCC 19 [Breeden] and Éditions Écosociété Inc. et al. v Banro Corp., 2012 SCC 18 [Banro], the Supreme Court of Canada clarified the manner in which courts should determine whether to exercise jurisdiction over multijurisdictional defamation claims involving foreign defendants. Although the decisions support the ability of plaintiffs to advance defamation claims in any Canadian jurisdiction in which allegedly defamatory material is published, the decisions also leave open the possibility that the law will evolve to reduce the potential for forum shopping. Background In Breeden, the plaintiff commenced defamation actions in Ontario against the...


Crookes v Newton: Hyperlinking, Defamation Law, and Freedom of Expression on the Internet

On October 17, 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada released its landmark decision in Crookes v Newton, [2011] 3 SCR 269 [Crookes], affirming 2009 BCCA 392 and 2008 BCSC 1424. At issue was whether creating an internet hyperlink to defamatory material constitutes “publication” of the material for the purposes of defamation law. The case challenged the Court to strike an appropriate balance between the competing interests of freedom of expression and the protection of reputation in the new context of internet communications.


Bou Malhab v. Diffusion Métromédia: SCC Finds “No Ordinary Person” Would Believe Reputation of “Nigger”-Speaking Arab and Haitian Taxi Drivers Was Damaged. Who is the ordinary person?

The past year has been quite the roller coaster for libel and defamation cases here at  Our Senior Contributing Editor, Tiffany Wong, covered two crucial UK cases here and here, as well as the titillating “Officer Bubbles” story here.  Just over a year ago, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) also released the landmark judgment of Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61, consolidating the “defence of responsible communication” on matters of public interest.  You can find‘s survey of the decision here.  And interested readers should keep their eyes peeled for Black v. Breeden, 2010 ONCA 547, Conrad...


“Irresponsible Journalism” Back on the Debate Table as British Newspaper Appeals to UK Supreme Court for Qualified Privilege

Newspapers once again find themselves on the losing side of libel suits. On July 13, 2010, in Flood v. Times Newspaper Ltd. [2010] EWCA Civ 804 (“Flood”), the England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) (“EWCA”) overturned the trial decision and held that a newspaper was unable to claim qualified privilege for online reporting of a criminal investigation. The original newspaper article entitled, “Detective accused of taking bribes from Russian exiles. Police investigating the alleged sale to a security company of intelligence on the Kremlin’s attempts to extradite opponents of President Putin, Michael Gillard reports” resulted in a lawsuit...


“Officer Bubbles” Sues YouTube and Anonymous Commenters for Online Defamation

On September 22, 2010, Toronto Police Constable Adam Josephs launched a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court: Adam Josephs v. YouTube et. al (2010) CV-10-410890 (Ont. Sup. Ct.) (“Josephs v. YouTube”). In the suit, Constable Josephs sues video sharing website YouTube for $1.25 million. He seeks damages for defamation of his reputation and disclosure of the identity of the YouTube user, ThePMOCanada, whose account has since been disabled, and 23 commenters whose identities remain unknown. Video Footage of G-20 Arrest and Parodic Cartoons Go Viral The events leading up to Josephs’ lawsuit began this summer during the G-20 Summit in Toronto....