In 2018 Maxine Bernier founded the People’s Party of Canada. The PPC with Bernier as its leader ran in the 2019 federal election, winning not a single seat. Maxine was not happy about our client, Warren Kinsella’s commentary about him and his party during the election. He singled out Warren’s commentary as the reason he lost his own riding and brought a defamation action seeking $325,000 in damages.
Shillers, LLP successfully brought a SLAPP motion and had Bernier’s action dismissed with costs.
PHOTO BY POSTMEDIA/FILES
The judge ruled Bernier had not proved that the harm to his reputation outweighs the importance of protecting freedom of speech on matters of public interest
OTTAWA — Maxime Bernier has lost his defamation fight against a controversial columnist who repeatedly portrayed the People’s Party of Canada leader as racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic during the run-up to the 2019 federal election.
His defamation suit against political strategist and pundit Warren Kinsella was tossed out of Ontario Superior Court on Wednesday.Bernier had argued that his reputation was damaged by Kinsella, whom he accused of acting with malice on behalf of Conservative party operatives who had hired Kinsella’s company, Daisy Consulting Group, to dig up dirt on the fledgling People’s Party.But while he said some of Kinsella’s publications on social media and in mainstream newspapers were clearly defamatory, Justice Calum MacLeod ruled that Bernier had not proved that the harm to his reputation outweighs the importance of protecting freedom of speech on matters of public interest.Ontario has adopted legislation meant to discourage so-called SLAPP suits — strategic lawsuits against public participation — that aim to limit freedom of expression.
Under that legislation, a plaintiff must prove that the harm to his or her reputation is such that the public interest in proceeding with a defamation lawsuit outweighs the public interest in protecting free speech. If that onus is not met, the suit must be dismissed.
In a written statement, Kinsella welcomed the “important” ruling.“Bernier and his People’s Party have lost yet again,” he said. “We were always confident the court would dismiss Bernier’s action, which was a clumsy attempt to silence dissent and legitimate criticism.”The lawyer for Kinsella and the Daisy Group, David Shiller, called the ruling a victory for “journalists, writers and bloggers.”“It means that those seeking high public office, like Bernier was, cannot use the laws of defamation to try to silence and punish their critics.”Shiller said his clients would be seeking compensation for their legal costs.Kinsella has separately filed a libel notice against Bernier and the People’s Party for alleging that he committed perjury.During the election campaign earlier this fall, Bernier attracted large crowds with his opposition to vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19. His supporters were prominent among the angry, profanity-spewing protesters who dogged Prime Justin Trudeau’s campaign.
Experts who follow hate groups have said the anti-vaccination fringe has been infiltrated and exploited by white supremacists.
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