Working Hard to Safeguard Paddling Assets for All Canadians

All about Whitewater

All about Whitewater
A Blog about River Preservation and the need to protect our free flowing whitewater resources

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Defamation Suit Law in Canada

Extracted from a recent comment piece by Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer, Mining Watch

We depend upon well researched legal positions to advance environmental protection. Appeal to the
emotions,  on a  factual basis, while  sometimes less obvious,  is still useful.

We believe in free speech, and in the ability of activists to speak their mind without being sued for it.

Conduct during the trial matters.  Words can be defamatory, in the sense that they could tend to lower somebody's reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person especially when communicated to at least one person other than the subject of the remarks.

Activists who find themselves in court – whether because they’re sued or for other reasons – need to know that there are certain expectations,including communicating respectfully to the judge, the lawyers, witnesses and other participants. Updating supporters with the progress of a  court case via a blog or the media should be accurate and respectful.

Some activists – due to their style or personal beliefs – find no difficulty with the conventions of court. Others find it more difficult to strike a balance between making their views and perspectives heard, and observing a level of decorum that the judge expects. However, at the end of the day, activists would be well advised to be aware of the expectations of the judge, who will be deciding the case.

Activists need to be careful, particularly when making emotionally charged statements, and to make the factual basis for their opinions clear.  It is important not to allow subsequent communications to create confusion as to the basis for earlier statements.

*The defence of fair comment*

At the end of the day, the judge may agree with defamatory statements. But the Supreme Court of Canada has recently expanded the“defence of fair comment” in a case known as /WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson /. 

That case was a defamation suit against BC’s own Rafe Mair for comments that he made comparing a speech made by Kari Simpson on homosexuality to speeches
made by Hitler and U.S. segregation era politicians. The Supreme Court of Canada allowed Rafe’s appeal, and in doing so, said that individuals who express honestly held opinions – as long as they are clearly opinions and not claims of fact – cannot be found guilty of defamation.

The Supreme Court says that the defence applies where:

    (a) the comment must be on a matter of public interest;

    (b) the comment must be based on fact;

    (c) the comment, though it can include inferences of fact, must be recognizable as comment;

    (d) the comment must satisfy the following objective test: could any [person] honestly express that opinion on the proved facts?

    (e) even though the comment satisfies the objective test the defence can be defeated if the plaintiff proves that the defendant was    [subjectively] actuated by express malice.

A recent case is the first defamation case involving defamation by an environmental activist since the Supreme Court’s decision in WIC Radio  Its findings will protect environmentalists and others seeking to comment on high profile public issues.

The protection of a person’s ability to exercise his or her right to freedom of expression in order to attempt to influence public opinion on legitimate public issues is the objective of the defence of fair comment. The defence cannot be defeated if the respondent was doing the very thing that the defence was designed to protect.

/Mainstream Canada v. Staniford / should give environmentalists some comfort that they won’t be held liable for any controversial statement made about corporations. The decision also
suggests a number of lessons for environmentalists and others speaking out.

The decision is a win for free speech, but does nothing to address the broader problem of allowing large corporations with extremely deep pockets to drag their political opponents into court. The costs of going to court (and defamation cases are particularly expensive) are prohibitive for activists, but are a tax deductible expense for big companies. The result is an unequal playing field where those who speak out against environmental destruction risk being sued by deep-pocketed opponents.

If you have access to an experienced defamation lawyer and are an accomplished fundraiser and win - the costs award that you may receive from the plaintiff will not cover your legal bills, and will not replace the months of your time and attention that the case has taken.

1 comment:

Peter Karwacki said...

This bares repeating:

The decision is a win for free speech, but does nothing to address the broader problem of allowing large corporations with extremely deep pockets to drag their political opponents into court. The costs of going to court (and defamation cases are particularly expensive) are prohibitive for activists, but are a tax deductible expense for big companies. The result is an unequal playing field where those who speak out against environmental destruction risk being sued by deep-pocketed opponents.

Canadian Rivers

Canadian Rivers
I speak for river users too!

The Queen is not amused!

The Queen is not amused!

The Damned Dam - 2005 -

The Damned Dam - 2005 -
22nd Annual Kipaw Rally has modest turnout. - 23rd does better

The Ashlu river: it could happen to you

The Ashlu river: it could happen to you

Whitewater Ontario

Whitewater Ontario
Working Hard to Protect Canada's Paddling Resources

Whitewater Ontario - Mission Statement

It is Whitewater Ontario’s mission to support the whitewater paddling community through the promotion, development and growth of the sport in its various disciplines. We accomplish this through the development of events, resources, clubs, and programs for personal and athletic development, regardless of skill level or focus, to ensure a high standard of safety and competency; We advocate safe and environmentally responsible access and use of Ontario’s rivers. Whitewater Ontario is the sport governing body in the province, and represents provincial interests within the national body Whitewater Canada and the Canadian Canoe Association

Kipawa, Tabaret, and Opemican

Kipawa, Tabaret, and Opemican
If Hydro Quebec is not actively pursuing Tabaret what is that bite out of Opemican for?

Kipawa Dam: After

Kipawa Dam: After
Laniel Dam at 2006 Rally

Where is the Kipawa

Where is the Kipawa
Kipawa flows into lake Temiskamingue, running from Kipawa Lake, under hwy 101 in Quebec

Kipawa Dam

Kipawa Dam
laniel dam at 2004 River Rally

Tabaret is a Bad Idea

About the Kipawa

The best thing paddlers can do to help the cause of the Kipawa:

1. attend the rally and bring others including non paddlers to attend and buy beer and have fun

2. write your MP /MNA and raise the issue and post your objections -1 letter = 200 who didn't write

3. Write Thierry Vandal the CEO of Hydro Quebec strongly opposing the 132 MW standard decrying the use of "diversion" as the most environmentally inappropriate method of power production

4. Write Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec protesting that either the algonquin or the tabaret project will eliminate all other values on the Kipawa River by turning it into a dry gulch.

5. See if you can get other allied groups interested by showing your own interest, ie the Sierra Defense Fund, Earthwild, MEC, and so on.

6. Demand further consultation

7. Currently we are at the point where we need to sway public opinion and raise awareness.

However, if all else fails, don't get mad, simply disrupt, foment, and protest . The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Have you read Edward Abbey?

Important Addresses
CEO,Hydro Québec, 75 boul René Levesque, Montreal, P.Q., H2Z

Tabaret is a Bad Idea (Part Two)

Les Amis de la Riviere Kipawa is poised to use an application to the Federal Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus to ensure the Minster does what he is supposed to do, protect the public's right to navigate the water control structure at Laniel, Quebec using the Navigable Waters Protection Act. (see

In the now gutted Navigable Waters Protection Act lay the means by which the Minister of Transport could keep the public right of passage down our great Canadian Heritage, our rivers and streams which are threatened especially by resource corporations and power brokers such as Hydro Quebec.

These powerful entities continue to petition that 'this' river or 'that' stream is not navigable and therefore not protectable.
I don't say that dams and bridges should not be built, only that if they are, historical navigation rights should be considered and preserved by making reasonable accommodations for recreational boaters.

It is the Minister of Transport, in exercising the right to allow or disallow work on or over a navigable waterway is what keeps boats and recreational boaters plying our waterways.

To many recent cases launched in the Federal Court concerning the Navigable Waters Protection Act, most recently the case of the Humber Environment Group of Cornerbrook Newfoundland versus the Cornerbrook Pulp and Paper Company indicates that the important oversight is not being faithfully performed. Have we really come to the point now where we must say "such and such a stream is one foot deep, possessing so many cubic feet per second flow and so on?" The answer to this is... YES!

The honourable Mr. Justice John A. O'Keefe, ruled that it had not been shown that the river was navigable. How convenient was that to the Minister? But either the Minister of Transport acts to protect our rivers and streams as a public right or he does not and that means rivers and streams currently enjoyed by kayakers and canoists.

Enough of the cheating, and double-talk. Canadians! our rivers and streams are our own, lets urge the Minister of Transport and the our government to protect them.

Peter Karwacki

Tabaret is a Bad Idea (Part Three)

10 Reasons WhyTabaret is a Bad Idea1) Tabaret is too big. The station is designed to useevery drop of water available in the Kipawawatershed, but will run at only 44 percent capacity.We believe the Tabaret station is designed to usewater diverted from the Dumoine River into theKipawa watershed in the future. 2) The Tabaret project will eliminate the aquaticecosystem of the Kipawa River.The Tabaret project plan involves the diversion of a16-km section of the Kipawa River from its naturalstreambed into a new man-made outflow from LakeKipawa. 3) Tabaret will leave a large industrial footprint on thelandscape that will impact existing tourismoperations and eliminate future tourism potential. 4) The Tabaret project is an aggressive single-purposedevelopment, designed to maximize powergeneration at the expense of all other uses. 5) River-diversion, such as the Tabaret project, takinglarge amounts of water out of a river’s naturalstreambed and moving it to another place, is verydestructive to the natural environment. 6) The Kipawa River has been designated a protectedgreenspace in the region with severe limitations ondevelopment. This designation recognizes theecological, historical and natural heritage value ofthe river and the importance of protecting it.Tabaret will eliminate that value. 7) If necessary, there are other, smarter and morereasonable options for producing hydro power onthe Kipawa watershed. It is possible to build a lowimpactgenerating station on the Kipawa river, andmanage it as a “run-of-the-river” station, makinguse of natural flows while maintaining other values,with minimal impact on the environment. 8) The Kipawa watershed is a rich natural resource forthe Temiscaming Region, resonably close to largeurban areas, with huge untapped potential fortourism and recreation development in the future.Tabaret will severely reduce this potential. 9) Tabaret provides zero long-term economic benefitfor the region through employment. The plan is forthe station to be completely automated andremotely operated. 10) The Kipawa River is 12,000 years old. The riverwas here thousands of years before any peoplecame to the region. The Tabaret project will change all that.

Problems on a local River?

  • There is more to do as well but you have to do your research and above all, don't give up.
  • IN the meantime prepared a document itemizing the history of navigation of this spot and its recreational value. Use the Kipawa river history of navigation as a guide: see
  • Under the Ministry of Environment guidelines you have a set period of time to petition the change under the environmental bill of rights, you may have limited time to take this action. But it involves going to court for a judicial review of the decision.
  • 4. contact the ministry of natural resources officials and do the same thing.
  • 3. contact the ministry of the environment and determine if they approved the project
  • 2. determine if the dam was a legal dam, approved under the navigable waters protection act.
  • 1. research the decision and timing of it to determine if an environmental assessment was done.

Minden Ontario

Minden Ontario
Gull River Water control at Horseshoe lake

A History of Navigation on the Kipawa River

Prior to the environmental assessment there was no signage at the Laniel Dam

T-Shirts Area: These are available now!

T-Shirts Area: These are available now!
Send $25 and a stamped self addressed envelop for the Tshirt, and for the bumper sticker, a stamped and self addressed envelope with $5.00 for the bumper sticker to Les Amis de la rivière Kipawa, 80 Ontario St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1K 1K9 or click the link To purchase a Les Amis "T" contact Doug with the following information: Number of shirts:Sizes: Ship to Address: Method of Payment: cash, cheque and paypal, Shipto address:

Bumper Stickers Now Available

Bumper Stickers Now Available
Get your bumper sticker and show your support for the Kipawa Legal Fund ! - send $5.00 in a Stamped, self addressed envelope to: Peter Karwacki Box 39111, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1H 7X0