Skip to comments.Conservative website shuttered after libel ruling [Free Dominion]
Posted on 01/29/2014 7:14:41 AM PST by conniew
By Andrew Duffy, OTTAWA CITIZEN January 28, 2014
OTTAWA The online political forum, Free Dominion, has shut down after a wholesale defeat in a libel case brought by Ottawa human rights lawyer Richard Warman.
A jury concluded that Warman was maliciously defamed by four commentators on Free Dominion, a website that bills itself as the voice of principled conservatism.
Warman has been awarded more than $127,000 in general damages, aggravated damages, punitive damages and court costs because of 41 defamatory statements published on the conservative website in 2007.
Warman rose to prominence during the past decade by using the Canadian Human Rights Act to shut down the websites of people spreading hate speech; it made him the target of free speech advocates in the conservative blogosphere, and on websites such as Free Dominion.
In a recently released decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith granted Warman a permanent injunction that prohibits Free Dominion from ever repeating in any manner whatsoever any of the 41 defamations.
The websites operators, Connie and Mark Fournier, of Kingston, this week shut down freedominion.ca, saying they could not control what comments other people posted.
By leaving the forum open and allowing people to comment, wed be opening ourselves to a contempt-of-court charge, Connie Fournier said Tuesday.
If someone repeated one of those comments, we would be in trouble and could even go to jail.
The Fourniers have operated the website as a labour of love for the past 13 years.
Its really sad to be at the point where we have to shut down the political forum, she said. But weve come to the point where it would be crazy for us to keep it open: it would be too much of a risk.
They have vowed to appeal the defamation case and have launched a campaign on Indiegogo.com to raise money for their legal costs. The campaign has so far raised $2,800 of its $25,000 goal.
The Warman case is among the first to address at trial what constitutes defamation in the caustic political blogosphere. It adds to case law that suggests the Internet does not shield anonymous posters from legal action if they wrongfully attack someones reputation.
On his website, Warman said the case offers lessons for anyone involved in an Internet blog or forum. Chief among them, he said, is the idea that If you make a mistake, admit it, repair the harm, and move on.
Connie Fournier, however, said that if the case stands on appeal it will impair the once vibrant Canadian blogosphere.
I think this is a terrible thing for free speech on the Internet, she said. When people who are allowing comments on their blogs and forums look at humongous costs and damage rulings like this, at injunctions that could put them in jail, theyre not going to want to take the risk of opening their site.
The jury found that the four defendants Roger Smith, Jason Bertucci, Connie and Mark Fournier had been malicious, high-handed and oppressive in their conduct. Justice Smith also found the defendants had acted unreasonably by refusing to accept Warmans offer to settle the case for $5,000 each.
Warman had to fight in court to obtain the identifies of those anonymous posters who had left defamatory comments on Free Dominion. The case dragged on for six years, culminating in a three-week trial before a six-person jury.
The Fourniers have never apologized or issued a retraction about the statements found to be defamatory.
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Very sorry to learn of this Connie.
Please continue to contribute on this site (you and Mark).
pretty effing sad situation
Kanukistan. Poor buggers.
So much for thinking CA is just like the USA except for having to add “eh?” at the end of sentences. Guess that old saw about the interdependency of the rights delineated in the Bill of Rights is actually spot on.
I didn’t forget about them. They have been in my thoughts.
So I guess FaceBook, Twitter, all the newspapers, and all the other places that allow people to speak their mind are now subject to this ruling. (Actually, I realize this is Canada, but these internet sites can be accessed from Canada, so they can be taken into court too.)
This is complete B. S. It’s merely designed to quash Conservative contribution to the public debate. I’ll bet this guy is a real douche bag.
The only ones sanctioned are 'connected' ...
Being connected requires kneepads.
You can bring your own or purchase what you need at the commisary.
I’d love to read what these malicious, high-handed and oppressive statements were.
WHOA! Thanks for being/posting here, connie. BTTT!
You think it’s not going to eventually happen here?
We will contribute here! We are coming back to our roots. It was an interesting experiment to see if a FR-style board could exist in Canada.
I guess we have our answer.
Just a matter of when!
I would say let them reopen in a country where free speech is allowed, but I am not sure where that would be anymore.
Never forget that, nor forget that we are not far from going down the same road if we continue to buy tyranny by the drink.
One of the main issues in this case was that of liability of forum owners in Canada. If someone anonymously posts a comment on your forum that is later deemed to be defamatory, as the forum operator you walk into court assumed to be guilty, malicious and damages against the plaintiff are assumed. To make matters worse, as the forum operators, the defenses of fair comment and honestly held belief are not available to you. As part of the sentence for our horrible crime of allowing people to post their political opinions, we have now been barred by the court from ever operating a forum or blog where the public can post comments, for the rest of our lives.
Accusation equals guilt and there is no defense, even though you did not author the words yourself.
In Ontario, defamation is anything that is remotely negative about someone.
If we post them here we will go to prison.