Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Canadian Civil Liberties Association to Intervene in Morris Lawsuit Against Private Citizens

Posted by auroracitizen on November 29, 2010

Reprinted from The Auroran | November 29, 2010

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has opted to go ahead with seeking to intervene in outgoing Mayor Phyllis Morris’ $6 million lawsuit against three local bloggers, among others, to obtain the identity of anonymous posters on the Aurora Citizen Blog, as well as damages.

Cara Zwibel, a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, confirmed to The Auroran Friday that the Association had retained outside counsel to get involved.
“We have been involved in litigation like this before where [we’ve] intervened for privacy protection and freedom of expression, and that is the type of argument we will be making here,” she said.

“While I have seen the statement of claim, it still doesn’t lay out what the allegedly defamatory statements are, so I don’t know if there will be any more information about that. Once that information is available we would be in a better position to know exactly what our view is on the comments.

“I have some sense on what some of the comments are because some of them are laid out in the motion materials on this motion to obtain the identity of the anonymous bloggers and many of the comments at least appear to be opinion and commentary.”

Ms. Zwibel acknowledges that one of the claims in the statement alleges that the comments are threatening, thus the argument that the posters identities need to be disclosed, but she said using a defamation lawsuit is not the proper forum to “deal with threatening remarks.”

“That’s when you ask law enforcement to step in and [they] have tools available at their disposal to obtain the identities of these people to the extent they feel these are credible threats, and could obtain an authorization to get that information,” she said. “That would be the appropriate way to go about this, not through a defamation lawsuit.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, although comprised of many lawyers, typically employs outside counsel for help, Ms. Zwibel added. The organization plans to ask the court to intervene on the motion and if their request is granted, they would then make oral and written submissions before the court.

The motion is expected to come before the court in mid- January. With Ms. Morris’ term coming to a close on December 1, Mayor-Elect Geoff Dawe has already stated his intention to bring the matter before Council after the inaugural on December 7 to put the brakes on any further taxpayer dollars being spent on the matter.

Earlier this month, Ms. Morris criticized the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s interest in this matter. “As for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, we have heard nothing further from them since their first contact with my lawyers,” Ms. Morris told The Auroran. “It is hard to image that such an Association would choose to align themselves with extreme anonymous language and personal threats against an individual.”

Ms. Zwibel told The Auroran last week that the Association “certainly doesn’t condone threats and we certainly don’t endorse that kind of statement.”

“To the extent that these are true threats, there are other legal avenues to address that, and a civil defamation lawsuit is not the appropriate forum in which to do that. That is one of the reasons this lawsuit is concerning to us.

“With respect to the anonymous bloggers, these are people who are expressing their views on questions of politics, questions of public importance. The language in which they choose to express themselves is obviously up to them and, as I’ve said, as we are not sure exactly what the allegedly defamatory statements are, we are not yet in a position to comment on that.

“We do advocate for a person’s right to make comments anonymously on the internet and we have been involved in cases like this before and advocated for a system where a person seeking that identifying information needs to demonstrate that there is a compelling interest in getting that information and needs to demonstrate they have a strong case in their civil suit to obtain that information.

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4 Responses to “Canadian Civil Liberties Association to Intervene in Morris Lawsuit Against Private Citizens”

  1. Many times I have been watching children’s shows on the youtube (of course with my son), such as The Wiggles, and I just could not believe the swearing and bashing gong one, and things people said about them – I didn’t see any lawsuit issued from them? They continue with their lives.

    The other thing is if our money is wasted to disclosed the anonymous people behind the comments. Well then everyone knows internet is big, let’s just say big. So what is going to happen if we yet to find out that just someone came from another country decided to have some fun.

    Anna 🙂

    • Elizabeth Bishenden said

      Anna, the other thing you should know is that the Aurora Citizen, Bill Hogg, Richard Johnson, and Elizabeth Bishenden can in NO WAY (sorry for shouting, but that’s actually how I feel…) influence what is posted on (the former) Mayor’s Youtube channel

    • Elizabeth, if I was in your shoes, I will be shouting too.
      I am with you…

      Anna

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Meeja Law and Kate Sutherland, Founder Fire. Founder Fire said: #teaparty #912 Canadian Civil Liberties Association to Intervene in Morris …: The Canadian … http://tinyurl.com/2crqt5e #LIBERTARIAN […]

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