My Town Guilty of SLAPP

It amazes me how little some lawyers know about the very laws they sue over. In 2010, Mayor Morris sued Bill and Dick for $6 million. She failed to write down the defamatory words. She just said “they are obvious”. She lost. My town lost big time.

The judge threw out her case and found her guilty of SLAPP. See:


[34] In this case, applying the factors set forth in the Warman test to the plaintiff’s motion and action, I find as follows. 

[35] The plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case. The plaintiff in this defamation action has failed to set forth the specific words complained of as being defamatory. The jurisprudence clearly establishes that in actions of libel and slander, the precise words complained of are material and should be set forth with as much particularity as possible in the pleading itself, ideally verbatim or, at a minimum, with sufficient particularity to allow the defendant to respond (114931 Ontario Ltd. v. Canada (Attorney General), [2008] O.J. No. 4658, 2008 CarswellOnt 6932 (S.C.J.); Leahy v. Canada, [2008] F.C.J. No. 784, 2008 FC 620). This is not a case where the plaintiff is unable to obtain the verbatim defamatory statements and to extract them from the articles and blog comments noted. 

[36] In order to establish whether a prima facie case exists, the court must engage in a detailed and contextual analysis of each statement alleged to be defamatory. In my view, this is not possible where the plaintiff has not clearly identified the words relied upon. While the plaintiff argues that the words of defamation are clearly set forth in the articles, it is not the role of the court to parse the impugned articles and blogs before it to attempt to determine, by divination or divine inspiration, which statements it should assess in determining whether a prima facie case has been established. 

it is not the role of the court to parse the impugned articles and blogs before it to attempt to determine, by divination or divine inspiration, which statements it should assess in determining whether a prima facie case has been established. 

[37] I find, further, that the plaintiff has failed to address the issue of the failure to provide notice of the specific defamatory words within the limitation period set forth at s. 5 of the Libel and Slander Act.

So, it was no surprise that when I was sued, the lawyer would also fail to write down the defamatory words for the defendant to defend, and for the judge to rule. And there is a 3 month limitation. You must sue within 3 months of publication, and only AFTER sending a warning letter within 6 weeks of publication.

And lastly, “Defamation” requires proving the publisher KNEW the statement was false when he published it. So, since I merely link people to their own words from the past, I break no laws.

The Law Commission of Ontario went further:


iii. Retractions, Apologies and Other Novel Remedies

The LCO’s research and preliminary consultations suggest that many defamation plaintiffs are not looking for a monetary award so much as they hope to set the record straight. As a result, there is increasing pressure on the law and courts to recognize a broader range of remedies better suited to vindicating reputation and to the unique attributes of internet defamation.

One remedy directed at vindicating reputation is a court-ordered retraction.[374] In Warman v Fournier [2014], the plaintiff requested that the defendants be ordered to publish a retraction on the homepage where the defamatory comments were posted.[375] The judge held that there is jurisdiction to make such an order since it is akin to a mandatory injunction. However, the judge declined to grant the remedy where damages were sufficient to vindicate the plaintiff’s reputation and the defendant’s failure to apologize or retract was built into the damages award.

Retractions are arguably well-suited to defamation actions because they are directed at vindicating a plaintiff’s reputation in the very forum where the reputational harm occurred. However, court-ordered retractions do have limitations as a remedy. They are not considered appropriate in the context of opinions where “public interest is better served by continuing debate through rebuttal rather than by compulsorily bringing it to an end” and it may be seen as “invidious to be forced to recant opinions still honestly held”.[376] For this reason, commentators have typically recommended against court-ordered retractions.[377]

In Warman:

“[22] While the Charter does not apply to strictly private litigation between litigants not invoking state action, the Divisional Court has held that, because the Rules of Civil Procedure have the force of a statute~ they must be interpreted in a manner consistent with Charter rights and values: see D.P. v. Wagg, [2002] 0.1. No. 3808 at paras. 65-66 (Div. Ct.). In that case, the court held that whenever one party to a civil suit invokes or relies upon government action (in that case, the Rules of Civil Procedure; as enforced by the machinery of the administration of justice) to produce what amounts to the infringement of another party’s Charter rights, Charter values are invoked.

So, even if I was sued in time, my Charter Rights prevailed.