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  • Sea to Sky Law

DEFAMATION versus FAIR COMMENT


The recent decision of Hansman v. Neufeld, 2023 SCC 14 by our Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) on 19 May 2023 is a good example of the balancing of interests in our "free" society where we expect to have individual freedom of speech but there also has to be a balance with the protection of public interests (eg do not shout fire in a crowded theatre) nor can you defame someone by harming their reputation.


This SCC case is a good example of the analysis required to balance the need to protect the individual ability to make a "fair comment" with the need to protect against defamation of personal reputation especially in the internet age. This SCC decision was a consideration of the 2019 British Columbia Protection of Public Participation Act (“PPPA”) which allows the Court to dismiss a defamation claim before there is a trial on the merits, saving a lot of legal expense, if the stipulated factors are met by the Defendant applying to have the Claim dismissed - even if some harm had been caused to the Claimant's reputation by the Defendant's comments.


The PPPA helps protect the public interest of having a public discourse about important topics by stopping defamation claims which could be a strategic lawsuit against public participation (“SLAPP”). As many of us now know from the Trump era, some individuals try to stomp on "fair comment" by suing which naturally scares individuals from speaking up. Our SCC protected our ability to "speak truth to power".

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