Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Aurora and our Alleged Defamation Case Has Been the Subject of Considerable Debate

Posted by auroracitizen on August 16, 2011

More pundits are weighing in on the important subject — and they have consistently agreed with decision of the courts. This is reflected both in the media and with the numerous legal experts/commentators who have commented.

When it comes to political speech, freedom to express your opinion is paramount.

Generally it is accepted that making a defamatory comment about a politicians personal life seems to be widely accepted as out-of-bounds.

However, expressing a dissenting opinion about the conduct or actions of a politician is a right that needs to be protected.

Consider — the folks who have been named in the lawsuit and have been forced to finance the protection of their own good names and protect the rights of all Canadians to speak openly without fear of retaliation have themselves been attacked. Yet, when former Mayor Phyllis Morris launched a lawsuit, they were not accused of making any defamatory comments themselves.

Former Mayor Phyllis Morris just “thinks” they know who the anonymous posters are. And she turned the financial might of the Town of Aurora against 3 private citizens. Citizens just like you. Imagine if it was you who disagreed with former Mayor Morris.

But rather than buckling under, they have stood firm in their belief that Canadians have a right to criticize politicians. It’s part of our democracy — something many of our parents have fought and died for. Something worth fighting for again – this time in a Canadian court room — at personal expense

Here are a few more articles

Innovation Law Blog, University of Toronto
The Innovation Law Blog is an intellectual property and technology blog produced by the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy and the University of Toronto Technology and Intellectual Property Group (TIP Group). The blog features weekly editorials by University of Toronto law students and frequent pointers to news and outside commentary on intellectual property and related subjects.

This comparative is very interesting since it starts to demonstrates the difference in law between a comment that is truly defamatory — or simply hurts the feelings of a politician. A key difference many Morris supporters fail to acknowledge.

Centre for Innovation Law and Policy / TIP Group
LINK: http://innovationlawblog.org/2011/08/the-legality-of-online-anonymity-two-cases/

Striking a legal balance in anonymous online postings
Ontario court tackles free speech versus defamation, By Michael Geist, Ottawa Citizen Special

In this article, published in the Ottawa Sun and Montreal Gazette, the author makes the argument that before demanding that names be released, the onus is on the plaintiff to actually make a case that the posts were defamatory.

The court was therefore not asked to determine whether the posts at issue were in fact defamatory. Rather, it simply faced the question of whether it should order the disclosure of personal information about the posters themselves so that Morris could proceed with a defamation lawsuit.

The court rightly identified the core question as balancing “the competing interests of privacy, the public interest in promoting the administration of justice by providing the Plaintiff with the information sought to pursue her claim and the underlying values of freedom of expression and political speech.”

Moreover, the court emphasized that the posts involved political speech, which is particularly deserving of protection.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/internet/Striking%20legal%20balance%20anonymous%20online%20postings/5193062/story.html

ARMA International, Association focused on Records Management, Information Technology and Information Security

In this blog, referring to the Gazette articles they commented.

The Ontario Superior Court ruling in the case of Phyllis Morris vs. auroracitizen.ca provided a reminder of the value of court oversight in cases seeking the disclosure of personal information.

They also provided a good definition of what constitutes a prima facie case — something that is essential to understanding the decision.

It ruled that since Morris did not identify the specific defamatory words, she failed to establish a prima facie case [according to Law.com, a case in which “the evidence before trial is sufficient to prove the case unless there is substantial contradictory evidence presented at trial”] of defamation.

In plain English — that means Morris never established that she had actually been defamed. She just wanted names.

Had she proven defamation — they matter might have been different — but she neither stated what she felt had defamed her, nor did she actually provide any supporting evidence herself. Instead she let former Aurora staff member solicitor Christopher Cooper be the only person to provide any statement of any kind.

Read more: http://www.arma.org/policy/policy/canadianpolicybrief/11-08-10/Former_Mayor_Fights_for_Disclosure_of_Personal_Information.aspx

Phyllis Morris would like everyone to believe that she was defamed. That has never been proven. Nor has she even pled the words (as noted in the recent decision)

Phyllis Morris would like people to believe that the 3 defendants are bad people — yet this lawsuit was launched without even alleging that they had made any for the defamatory postings.

This case will be very important in establishing internet law for political postings and clearly people across the country are watching. It is unfortunate that 3 local citizens have been forced to fund this ground-breaking defence of our democratic right to free speech against a politician who was prepared to use town funds — your taxes hard at work — to fight this battle.

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4 Responses to “Aurora and our Alleged Defamation Case Has Been the Subject of Considerable Debate”

  1. Anonymous said

    Anonymous speech can be empowering – whistleblowers depend upon it to safeguard their identity and political participants in some countries face severe repercussions if they speak out publicly – but it also carries the danger of posts that cross the line into defamation without appropriate accountability.Striking the balance between protecting anonymous free speech and applying defamation laws sits at the heart of a new Ontario Superior Court decision released last week.The case involved postings about Phyllis Morris the former mayor of Aurora.In 2010 the website auroracitizen.ca featured an online chat forum where participants discussed a local election campaign.Morris who was defeated in the election launched a legal action during the campaign against the site the chat forum moderators its lawyers and website host to order them to disclose the identity of three anonymous posters.Morris did not identify the specific defamatory words but claimed that six posts were defamatory.The court was therefore not asked to determine whether the posts at issue were in fact defamatory. Rather it simply faced the question of whether it should order the disclosure of personal information about the posters themselves so that Morris could proceed with a defamation lawsuit.The court rightly identified the core question as balancing the competing interests of privacy the public interest in promoting the administration of justice by providing the Plaintiff with the information sought to pursue her claim and the underlying values of freedom of expression and political speech.Moreover the court emphasized that the posts involved political speech which is particularly deserving of protection.In sorting out the balance the court relied on a legal test established in 2010 Ontario defamation case that similarly involved anonymous online postings.

  2. Fed up with Morris said

    Why do the taxpayers of Ontario have to pay for ongoing court time for a plaintiff in a defamation action who, according to one Judge, has yet to establish, much less prove in a court of law, that she has been defamed?

    The only coherent and eminently sensible ruling in the matter, by Justice Brown, is now under a Motion to Appeal.

    I would like to enter a Motion to Appeal, and that is for the plaintiff to disappear, once and for always.

  3. Sprite said

    It appears that there is a general consensus that this law suit is being badly handled. The blame must be spread to
    include the law firm as their responsibility would require advising the client. Or so I have been led to believe. Surely
    the firm’s partners must have been consulted ? Is no one minding the store ?

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