Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

CCLA Stepping In

Posted by auroracitizen on December 19, 2010

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has confirmed they will seek leave to intervene to argue against Ms. Morris and has appointed Torys LLP and Wendy Matheson its counsel on the Norwich motion.

The information below from the Torys site reports that divisional court recently rendered a decision in a similar case.

Canadian Civil Liberties Association welcomes Divisional Court decision protecting Internet anonymity

Torys represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association with a team that included Wendy Matheson and Natalie Biderman. Torys successfully intervened on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in a Divisional Court appeal in Warman v. Wilkins-Fournier. The case sets a significant precedent in the area of Internet law by establishing that the identity of an anonymous Internet user will not automatically be disclosed to a plaintiff in a civil proceeding absent proof of a prima facie case and a consideration of the Internet user’s Charter rights, even though the information is in the possession of a named defendant.

The Divisional Court overturned an order requiring the named defendants, who run an Internet message board, to produce all documents in their possession relating to the identities of several John Doe defendants who posted allegedly defamatory comments on the message board. The Divisional Court found that the case engaged both freedom of expression and privacy interests under the Charter, and that these interests should be balanced against the public interest in disclosure for the administration of justice. It held that courts should adopt a process that provides for a balancing of the interests at stake before identity information is disclosed by a party. Otherwise, a plaintiff with no legitimate claim could misuse the court rules by, for example, commencing a frivolous action against an Internet service provider for the sole purpose of unmasking an anonymous Internet commentator.

Further information is found on the CCLA’s website.

The defendants are pleased by this development and feel that it reflects the significant legal issues in this case and look forward to the involvement of the CCLA in this matter.

6 Responses to “CCLA Stepping In”

  1. Paul Sesto said

    Great to see CCLA’s involvement and direct support. I would think that the CCLA would only do so if they were sure they were backing the right side.

  2. One who Knows said

    Excellent News ! but then again who would think that this type of frivolous nonsense could even have seen the light of day , The more serious question remains , how do the victims ,including the town recover their losses?

  3. Perplexed said

    According to the minutes of the Council meeting of September 14, 2010, on a Motion by Councillor Granger, seconded by Councillor Gaertner, Council resolved into a Closed Session to consider two items: the second was “Potential defamation.”

    Closed Session commenced at 11:33 p.m. and reconvened into Open Session at 1:11 a.m. It is noted that Mayor Morris left the meeting at 1:10 a.m., leaving Deputy Mayor McRoberts in the Chair.

    Six of the eight Councillors plus the Mayor participated in the Closed Session, presumably in the company of the three most senior Town executives, Mr. Garbe, Mr. Leach and Mr. Cooper. It is impossible to determine what amount of the 1 hr. 38 min. discussion related to the “potential defamation.” It is probably safe to say that all those present would have had a comment, although who said what, is once again impossible to determine.

    On a Motion by Councillor MacEachern, seconded by Councillor Gaertner, the Town Solicitor was “directed to retain outside legal counsel and to take any and all actions to bring resolution to this matter.”

    Some time afterwords Councillor and Deputy Mayor McRoberts, who initially supported the Motion, changed his mind. Upon reflection he stated that he did not feel that the Municipal Act provided for the action taken by Council following its Closed Session deliberation.

    Any individual has the right to seek legal redress for alleged oral or written statements against himself or herself. But surely this is a personal matter and should be initiated and paid for by that person.

    What has me perplexed is how it came to be concluded that the Town of Aurora should act on behalf of a person claiming defamation because that person happens to be the Mayor, and at the sole cost to the Town. The words “in her capacity as Mayor” were subsequently removed from the Notice of Action, but the meter is still ticking with respect to costs.

    What is further perplexing is that the Toronto law firm Aird & Berlis should be retained as legal representative for former Mayor Morris, at hourly rates that are very significant. Possibly it is because Aird & Berlis has billed the Town for many tens of thousands of dollars during the past term, a lot of it, in the opinion of many residents, in connection with items of negligible value.

    If former Councillor McRoberts is correct about the Municipal Act, than the deliberation during the late evening of September 14 and into the following morning resulted in a wrong decision, despite the senior executive presence; people who possibly should have known better.

    Where and how this will end nobody knows at present.

    But what will rid me of the “perplexed” label is for Council to bring an end to any further financial support of Phyllis Morris’ law suit, and demand repayment for any and all amounts paid on her behalf to date. They can do this at the Special Council Meeting December 21.

    • Anonymous said

      I think we all want a full accounting of the cost of this debacle. Will an FOI request be necessary? Or will the new council instruct staff to do so?

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