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DEFAMATION - What constitutes defamatory words - Imputations of crime

Thursday, August 06, 2020 @ 7:40 AM  

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Appeal by the defendants from the dismissal of their anti-SLAPP motion. The respondent's defamation action was based on statements made by the appellants during the respondent's unsuccessful campaign for election as president of the Toronto Local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The respondent alleged that during the campaign the appellants, members of the union, made defamatory statements about him in two invitation-only online chat groups and in posters distributed to members of the local. The statements included allegations the respondent was a racist, a sexist, corrupt and had engaged in criminal activity. The motion judge found the appellants did not establish that the statements at issue related to a matter of public interest.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The motion judge erred in finding the expressions did not relate to a matter of public interest. He mischaracterized the context of the expressions at issue, defined the segment of the community too narrowly and drew an unwarranted distinction between expressions made in the context of private and public organizations. Expressions concerning racism, sexism, corruption and misconduct by a candidate for president of a local of a Canadian public-sector union related to a matter of public interest. The respondent's claim was supported by the evidence adduced by the respondent and the appellants' pleading. The evidence did not reveal a defence to the respondent's serious complaints. Having regard to the merits of the proceeding and the harm likely to have been suffered by the respondent, the public interest in permitting the proceeding to continue outweighed the public interest in protecting the expressions at issue.

Nanda v. McEwan, [2020] O.J. No. 2907, Ontario Court of Appeal, G.R. Strathy C.J.O., M.H. Tulloch and S.A. Coroza JJ.A., July 2, 2020. Digest No. TLD-August32020005