Canada Gets A 'Responsible Communication' Defense Against Libel Claims

from the that's-a-start dept

In the past, we've see some ridiculous defamation lawsuits filed in Canada, because (unlike the US), Canada's defamation laws don't have free speech protections included in them. Luckily, the Canadian Supreme Court has seen it reasonable to clarify Canada's defamation laws by detailing a "responsible communication" defense, which allows any publisher (beyond just newspapers) to present a claim that they published the material responsibly, given the situation at hand. It's nice to see various countries realize that draconian defamation laws may present a serious chilling effect on speech.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 2:39am

    A lot of times people take what's provided as the truth. But this often perpetuates itself, and becomes an indirect problem with management who often assume everything that they read online should be seen online as the truth.

    Still, I have to give to this guy props.

    The part we all missed was a request from Ballmer for "Give Me Your Badge". Other than that, even if it was fake, it was well played. It seems spot on, in every other way.

    But before we find ourselves caught up in this one person's interpretation, we all should remain open to alternative interpretations as run through the marketing department.

    I am listening to "Bond Street" By Burt Bacharach off his "Something Big" CD if that means anything to you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Jimr (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 4:55am

    responsible communication

    Journalists across Canada, as well as bloggers, can now use the defence of "responsible communication on matters of public interest" as a defence against libel.

    Excerpt from Supreme Court ruling

    The defence of public interest responsible communication will apply where:

    A. The publication is on a matter of public interest


    B. The publisher was diligent in trying to verify the allegation, having regard to:

    * The seriousness of the allegation;
    * The public importance of the matter;
    * The urgency of the matter;
    * The status and reliability of the source;
    * Whether the plaintiff's side of the story was sought and accurately reported;
    * Whether the inclusion of the defamatory statement was justifiable;
    * Whether the defamatory statement’s public interest lay in the fact that it was made rather than its truth (“reportage”); and
    * Any other relevant circumstances.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    The Anti-Mike, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Nice but...

    it is really too bad to see the Supreme Court not just ruling, but attempting to legislate from the bench. While the intentions are good and all, it would appear that they are trying to do parliament's job, writing new law. This is something that should be voted on and passed by the house, and not by a small panel of judges.

    I am sure the judges would take offense if the members of parliament started sending people to prison and finding others not guilty randomly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    vagueness, Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 8:32am


    * Whether the defamatory statement’s public interest lay in the fact that it was made rather than its truth (“reportage”); and.....

    what does this mean and the one above
    * Whether the inclusion of the defamatory statement was justifiable;

    if its justifiable then its a fact and thus is not libel or slanderous by the definition?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), Dec 23rd, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Sigh... Was: Nice but...

    "...attempting to legislate from the bench.." Can you spell 'framing the discussion'? I knew you could.

    Laws aren't just what Parliament passes. They're also what the prosecutors enforce and how the Courts rule.

    1) In Canada's British-based legal system, libel wasn't/isn't generally protected by the truth of one's statements. If I'm wrong, any lawyers out there, please correct me.

    2) OK, so if Parliament passes a law which is unconstitutional, is the Supreme Court of Canada supposed to remain silent? What's the point of having other laws and a Constitution, then? And a Charter of Rights, eh?

    3) Read the ruling:
    Q: "Should the Common Law Provide a Defence Based on Responsible Communication in the Public Interest?"
    A..further down: "It asserts that the existing law is inconsistent with the principle of freedom of expression as guaranteed by s. 2(b) of the Charter."
    " Freedom of expression and respect for vigorous debate on matters of public interest have long been seen as fundamental to Canadian democracy. Many years before the Charter this Court, in the Reference re Alberta Statutes, [1938] S.C.R. 100, per Duff C.J., suggested that the Canadian Constitution contained an implied right of free expression on political matters. That principle, affirmed in cases like Saumur v. City of Quebec, [1953] 2 S.C.R. 299, and Switzman v. Elbling, [1957] S.C.R. 285, has stood the test of time."

    This was a clarification of what the law was/is, not a rewriting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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