Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Archive for the ‘Integrity’ Category

Auroran Letter Writer Has Some Facts Wrong

Posted by auroracitizen on November 8, 2011

This week, Alex Vander Veen wrote a letter to The Auroran (pg 4) supporting former Mayor Phyllis Morris. That’s his right and we support his right to state his opinion.

However, like many of her supporters, he has some of his facts wrong.

The truth is, Phyllis Morris did not sue anonymous bloggers. They were anonymous — so she didn’t know who they were. Result — the anonymous bloggers never spent 1 thin dime on this lawsuit.

What really happened was that Phyllis Morris sued 3 local families who were required to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend their names and the right for citizens of Auroran to freely criticize their local politicians.

In the end, the courts found no fault in anything they had done and she abandoned her lawsuit.

You may agree that anonymous bloggers should be held accountable for their words.

You may even agree with using your tax dollars to initiate a lawsuit.

But do not for one minute think this lawsuit was about suing anonymous bloggers.

The truth is that the 3 families Phyllis Morris sued were not anonymous bloggers. But they were the target of her attack.

So if you want to defend Phyllis Morris — at least have the courtesy to get the facts straight and admit what she really did.

Phyllis Morris used our tax dollars to launch a lawsuit for her own personal financial benefit and she sued 3 families who had nothing to do with the blog comments she was complaining about.

To carry Mr Vander Veen’s analogy further about schoolyard bullies — this sounds more like a bully who was afraid to fight their own fight — instead they got a gang together to intimidate and bully 3 smaller people — just because they happened to be standing in the schoolyard when snowballs were thrown.

Who’s really the coward?

Advertisements

Posted in Integrity, Legal, Media | 35 Comments »

Phyllis Morris Makes National Post

Posted by auroracitizen on October 19, 2011

Media coverage of the latest move by Phyllis Morris to file a discontinuance in her $6,000,000 lawsuit again 3 local citizens who criticized her online during the last election campaign has reached both local and national attention.

Megan O’Toole reports here. http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/18/former-aurora-mayor-drops-blogger-lawsuit/

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | Leave a Comment »

Update: Morris Discontinues Lawsuit

Posted by auroracitizen on October 18, 2011

On Oct 17, 2011, almost 1 year to the date after stating a $6,000,000 lawsuit against 3 residents of Aurora, Phyllis Morris has discontinued her lawsuit.

A discontinuance by a plaintiff is exceedingly rare in civil proceedings. In essence, the plaintiff, who has brought the fight to the defendants, admits that he or she no longer wishes to prosecute her claim. Where a plaintiff discontinues a claim, it could be reasonably assumed that they have recognized that their claim was fatally flawed and without merit from the outset.

This discontinuance is a total victory for the defendants, and substantiates and supports the position they took throughout this litigation—that they did nothing wrong.

The discontinuance also ends the Appeals to Judge Brown’s recent rulings — which have now been accepted by Ms. Morris.

It was manifestly unfair that the defendants were put to the time and expense of legal fees at the hands of Ms. Morris, most especially in light of the fact that Ms. Morris used tax dollars to pursue them in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack intended to silence their efforts to hold her government accountable.

It is equally telling that Ms. Morris discontinued the litigation when she was called upon to fund it out of her own pocket rather than use taxpayer funds as initially intended. She was fully prepared to use town resources to support her private lawsuit, at the towns’ sole risk and expense to her sole potential gain, despite the fact that the Town’s Code of Conduct states clearly that “public office is not to be used for personal gain”.

While the defendants, Hogg and Johnson defended their principles with their own funds — Phyllis Morris did not.

Hopefully, there has been a lesson learned from this experience. Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic right of all Canadians — but it is a right that will be attacked, and will need protection.

Unfortunately, it is another blemish on the good name of Aurora that the defendants were called upon to personally defend this right.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Town Council | 33 Comments »

Morris Lawsuit Keeps Aurora (and herself) in the Public Eye

Posted by auroracitizen on August 21, 2011

One of the many definitions of irony is “incongruity between what is expected to be and what actually is, or a situation or result showing such incongruity”. Truly the Phyllis Morris lawsuit is a perfect definition of irony.

Her alleged reason for beginning this lawsuit was because anonymous blog comments subjected her to “ridicule, hatred and contempt.”

However, in truth, it appears her own actions have damaged her reputation — well outside the boundaries of fair Aurora — far more than anything written in any local blog or newspaper.

Here’s another example of the coverage our former Mayor is generating for herself and our town.

Court of Public Opinion Renders Verdict in Phyllis Morris case: Guilty of Gross Stupidity

Phyllis Morris has gained a lot of notoriety since she lost her re-election bid to keep her job as mayor of Aurora, Ontario.  It was during that election that she got just a little too big for her own britches and started suing anyone and everyone who was related to a couple of blog posts she didn’t like. Read More

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 7 Comments »

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.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 4 Comments »

Globe & Mail Weights In

Posted by auroracitizen on August 5, 2011

Why faceless sniping deserves protection

Globe & Mail: Ivor Tossell, Aug 3, 2011

LINK: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/digital-culture/ivor-tossell/why-faceless-sniping-deserves-protection/article2118151/

Posted in Integrity, Leadership, Legal, Media | 4 Comments »

More Media Coverage

Posted by auroracitizen on July 31, 2011

Court grapples with legalities of anonymous online postings
Michael Geist, Internet law Columnist, Sunday July 31, 2011, Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1032104–geist-court-grapples-with-legalities-of-anonymous-online-postings

Posted in Code of Ethics, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 1 Comment »

Morris Launches Appeal

Posted by auroracitizen on July 30, 2011

We received word yesterday that Morris and her legal team have officially submitted the paperwork in support of their appeal.

The primary basis for their appeal is that it conflicts with the original Spence decision. Of interest, many legal pundits would suggest that Spence was the one who got it wrong.

Does this mean that if the Brown judgment is upheld — that Morris will concede that Spence was wrong?

October 27 appears to be the date Morris will ask the courts to hear her appeal — if they agree, then the actual appeal will be heard at a later date.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 3 Comments »

CCLA Publishes Court Findings

Posted by auroracitizen on July 28, 2011

LINK: http://ccla.org/2011/07/25/ontario-court-protects-political-speech-and-internet-anonymity/

Ontario Court Protects Political Speech and Internet Anonymity

July 25th, 2011

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently issued a decision on a motion brought by the former mayor of the municipality of Aurora.  The former mayor has sued some of her former constituents for defamation based on comments posted on a local Aurora blog which are critical of her work in office.

As part of her lawsuit, she brought a motion asking the Court to order the known parties to reveal identifying information about an anonymous blogger(s).  The CCLA intervened in this case to argue that a high threshold should be met before the Court should order the release of this kind of information.  The Court should pay particular attention to whether there is a prima facie case of defamation established (i.e. whether, on the surface, a case of defamation can be made out), and should weigh and balance the concerns about freedom of expression and privacy with the interests in obtaining disclosure.  CCLA argued that the rights of citizens to comment on and criticize the performance of their public officials is crucial in a democracy, and civil defamation suits should not be used as a means of silencing this kind of expression.

The Superior Court has found that the former mayor is not entitled to the identifying information she was seeking because she had not established a prima facie case of defamation.  The former mayor had not laid out the particular statements she alleged were defamatory and, as a result, the Court held that they could not determine whether her case was, on its surface, sufficient to establish defamation.  The Court also noted that the bloggers in this case had a reasonable expectation of anonymity since they did not have to identify themselves in order to participate in the blog.  The CCLA is pleased that the Court has taken the concerns of privacy and political speech seriously.

Read the CCLA’s factum here.

Read the Superior Court’s decision here.

Posted in Code of Ethics, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | Leave a Comment »

The Justice Brown Judgement

Posted by auroracitizen on July 28, 2011

For those interested in reading the Justice Brown judgment in full — it can be read here.

http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2011/2011onsc3996/2011onsc3996.html

Posted in Code of Ethics, Election 2010, Integrity, Leadership, Legal | 1 Comment »