Monday, March 03, 2008

Libel chill

I can't imagine anything more stupid than this. This is politics, not a tort. Misrepresentation of reality is what Question Period is based on. Surely the Tories remember when they spun stories about Shawinigate, billion dollar boondoggles, etc. that were super-torqued. Hell, I wish someone would make these idiots take their case into court.
Never has a government with so much room to grow self-destructed so publicly. Never has a Canadian government been so thin-skinned, so paranoid and so quick to kill off any good will shown by the press and the public.
I know what Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien would have told them to do with their libel notice.

14 comments:

James Goneaux said...

Well, yes, but the suit isn't for what went on in the Commons (which can't be touched), but what the Libs put on their website (which can be)...

Ottawa Watch said...

Yea, but the courts will say "we don't get into political fights" and toss the whole thing.
The issue of using material on a web site that has parliamentary privilege is already before the courts. Warren Kinsella was sued for posting material he read to a House committee. I believe that Kinsella's material has privilege and that Kinsella will win.

Anonymous said...

One word, numbnuts: "Discovery".

Anonymous said...

Rick Dearden would NOT be party to this case if he wasn't 100% certain PMSH would come out smelling like roses. Read up on him. ;-)

Ottawa Watch said...

I know who Dearden is and I've seen him lose.

And, numbnuts, one of the people who will be open to discovery examination is PM Harper. That should be entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Ya think?

http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/008183.html#c248422

Anonymous said...

http://melissawhoreboudras.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

No, Mark is right. You can argue about the nuts and bolts of the lawsuit but that does not change the fact that this government runs itself, in tone and tempo, more like a thuggish Mafia don than the rulers/leaders of a country. Just because they CAN sue does not mean they SHOULD sue. But these guys seem far more interested in wreaking revenge than building trust.

James Goneaux said...

Hold it: are you saying that if something is said in the House (are Committees also protected?), and then repeated, in whatever form outside the House, it is still protected?

That can't be what you mean, is it?

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Harper just explain what he was talking about on that tape - specifically, the reference to "financial considerations"?

Ottawa Watch said...

That's exactly what I mean. You report something said in committee or in the House and you have privilege. It holds true even of you made the statement yourself.
Same as if I report something said in a committee or in the House.

In the case of the Liberal blog, it is probably not a fair report of a committee hearing or house sesssion but the courts have made it clear they do not want to be placed in the position of political referree. This "lawsuit", which is, in fact a threat and has not yet progressed to a lawsuit, would be tossed by any court.
And discovery can be quite the little fishing expedition.
People should stop threatening lawsuits. It's a very expensive way to bluff.

James Goneaux said...

Well, here is my point:

The MP from Bug Tussle stands up in the House and says "The Minister is a lying, thieving nun-abusing alcoholic, Mr. Speaker."

A few meters from where he says this, outside the sanctity of the House, he is scrummed and asked about his statement.

CBC Radio Drone: "Will you repeat your allegation?"

MP: I believe I've made my point. (Read: not on your life will I repeat this).

A few hours later, his outburst in the House is posted on his party's website.

Is it really privileged? Would the Minister not have grounds to sue for defamation (presuming he isn't a lying, thieving nun-abusing alcoholic of course.)

And if it is slander, why do reporters get a free rein if they report exactly what was said in the House?

Just curious. Most of my Canadian legal education came from a 10th Grade course 25 years ago, and watching Street Legal

Ottawa Watch said...

'Fraid so.
Just like if some rube fron Noname, Manitoba, gets up in the House or committee and says you are the biggest father-raper in Canada. It can go on the front page of the Globe if it is a fairly-reported account of a Parliamentary statement. It's parliamentary privilege and it can be a bitch.
Now, your guy was smart not to repeat himself outside the House.

James Goneaux said...

Well, I guess that makes a bit of sense, for the MP, but if it is truly actionable, I can see where this would limit damages. I mean, if anyone can repeat it as "news" and get away with it, what the hell is the problem? Isn't part of slander damages how far the alleged slander was disseminated?

Which reminds me of the case involving Aleister Crowley: he sued a newspaper for libel, won, but was awarded no damages because the judge ruled Crowley had no reputation left to impunge...