How a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada expanding defenses in defamation law emboldened reporters and made possible tough press coverage of the Toronto mayor [Ivor Tossell, Walrus Magazine]
“A Montreal man has been ordered to pay $8,000 to a panhandler after an email he wrote complaining about her presence outside a liquor store was deemed discriminatory by the province’s human rights commission. … The SAQ [Quebec provincial liquor store operator] then made the decision to share the letter with the woman, who was advised by the police to file a complaint with the commission.” [CBC]
Canada’s infamous speech-smothering Section 13’s dead. And good riddance too. Among targets of legal action under Section 13 over the years have been well-known conservative commentators Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant [National Post and more, Brian Lilley, Wikipedia, earlier]
Esther Wrightman, who opposes the construction of wind turbines near her Ontario home, made some YouTube videos taking a dim view of NextEra, a leading wind-power company. Now the company is suing her, alleging among other things that she infringed on its intellectual property rights by publishing satirical altered versions of its logo. [Ezra Levant, Sun; Bayshore Broadcasting]
In a serious blow to speech rights north of the border, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld so-called hate speech laws as consistent with Canadian constitutional guarantees. The decision partially upheld the legal punishments applied by a Saskatchewan tribunal to a man who distributed anti-gay literature. [The Globe and Mail]
P.S. As has been pointed out, precedent in Canada on this issue was already pretty bad before the latest decision, so “serious blow” may not be the right phrase, except in the sense of hitting someone who’s already down. More: Howard Friedman via Volokh; Jacob Sullum.
Hans Bader on the curious insistence on blaming the Benghazi attack on a YouTube video [CEI] Greg Lukianoff responds to Eric Posner on blasphemy laws [HuffPo, earlier] “Uh oh. The Atlantic gets in the game of trolling the First Amendment.” [Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on this by Garrett Epps, earlier on Epps]
P.S. Ken at Popehat rates the President’s U.N. speech mostly good, with a few lapses. “It’s time for Canada to repeal its prohibition on blasphemous libel.” [Derek From, Canadian Constitution Foundation Justice Report] And in the “Pastitsios” affair, advocates of free speech in Greece are protesting the blasphemy arrest of a 27 year old man over his website, which makes fun of a well-known deceased Orthodox monk. [BoingBoing]
Sighs of relief after a decision in a defamation case (Crooks v. Newton) reported on earlier. [Michael Geist] Justice Abella:
I would conclude that a hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as “publication” of the content to which it refers.
Adventurous litigants in U.S. defamation cases have occasionally argued otherwise. On Canada, see also proposals to criminalize links to so-called hate speech.
Barrick Gold and Banro Corporation have sued three authors of a book that alleged human rights violations in African mining operations; Barrick has also threatened suit against a Vancouver-based publisher over a not-yet-published book. [BoingBoing, Canadian Business, Quill and Quire; FreeSpeechAtRisk.ca]
Ontario is being urged to tackle the problem. “The thing about SLAPPs is they are very effective. They are so effective that you never hear about them, because, the whole thing about them is, they are trying to shut people up,” said an environmentalist who favors broader protection for speech. [The Globe and Mail]