A Superior Court judge has thrown out an application by Madawaska Valley Council and the Township (the “Defendants”) to impose a gag order on The Current and its owners (the “Plaintiffs”). The Court had been asked by the Defendants to halt the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit which alleges abuse of power and defamation. The Defendants are accused of attempting to muzzle The Current because they were displeased with some of its investigative reporting.
In a 47-page decision released on August 6, Justice Adriana Doyle rejected the Defendants’ request stating that the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit falls outside the category of actions that merit Anti-SLAPP (“gag”) orders. She also said, “… The evidence establishes that the Plaintiffs could succeed on their claims for financial and reputational harm.” And also, “I conclude that the public interest weighs in favour of allowing the action to proceed to a determination on its merits.”
All members of Council as well as the municipal corporation were represented by lawyer Paul Cassan of the Sault Ste. Marie firm Wishart Law. Those familiar with the background to this litigation will recall that it was Cassan’s misguided questioning of the publisher’s honesty about his legal career that set in motion the events that followed.
Justice Doyle’s Decision refers to the Plaintiffs’ offer, made before starting the lawsuit, to take no legal steps if the Defendants would agree to issue an apology and retraction, as well as make a $500 donation to the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation. No response was received to this offer, and subsequent invitations to enter into mediation were also either rejected or ignored. CAO Suzanne Klatt has revealed that Wishart Law billed the Township $60, 848.81 in legal fees for work they did in the very early stages of this application. The Current has asked Klatt to advise how much Wishart Law has billed in total but as of this date no reply has been received.
Roger Paul, The Current’s publisher, has released the following statement. “My wife and I are pleased that Justice Doyle has explicitly vindicated our decision to bring this proceeding. We said from the beginning that it was in the public interest that we pursue this legal claim because the Defendants’ conduct, followed by their stonewalling about it, was contrary to the interests of their constituents.”
Editor’s note: Readers may find it helpful to read these two earlier articles for more of the background to this lawsuit.
- Come clean Mayor Love – What’s behind the attacks on The Current?
- MV Council digs in heels after attacks on The Current: attempts to intimidate Current’s lawyer
Pingback: Court of Appeal confirms MV not entitled to a gagging order against The Current | Madawaska Valley Current
MV Council needs a current update. LOL
CONGRATULATIONS!!! Our justice system guarantees due process which means that government must respect the legal rights of each individual whether you like them or not. Not to mention that FREEDOM of expression (investigative reporting) remains a constitutional right in Canada. At the very least mediation was another viable more inexpensive resolution based option that was forfeited and instead debt? If we do not fight to pursue justice and maintain our individual rights…..freedom will become a precarious illusion. Again, CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Be the change you wish to see. It’s one thing to be an arm chair councilor or mayor, another to get involved and do the actual job.
This is sad story of local politics. Stay on track and follow through. This is a completely irrational response by one or more elected representatives and, as an MV taxpayer, I am saddened by the complete waste of tax dollars that could be allocated to something useful. Lawyers fees and the inevitable penalties should be paid out of councillor’s personal funds.
I have to feel for MV Council a bit here. Here they are at the end of the day not paying for their mistakes but instead paying for the mistakes of their lawyer. This whole thing started because the lawyer, Mr. Cassan, didn’t do his initial homework well and questioned Mr. Paul’s honesty in a letter to MV Council.
If MV Council couldn’t initially recognize the fact that Mr. Cassan, representing MV in a court case that started because of him was in a conflict of interest- surely they must see it now! MV Council has some smart cookies on it and they must see that this situation has not been made better with the court case but rather has put the Council and taxpayers more at risk.
When you are in a hole and want to get out- first thing to do is stop digging. Get a new lawyer and run (don’t walk) to a settlement.
I agree with Eva-Marie that a County Solicitor’s office would be great.
I think it’s terrible that we, the taxpayers, must pay $65,000 to begin with. All because a Councillor refused to apologize for what he said.
Perhaps the best solution here would be for the County to establish its own “County Solicitor’s Office”
to provide legal advice to local Townships and to retain outside legal counsel only as necessary.
This new office would bill local Townships for legal services provided to them with the County covering any deficit.
The County should also select and pay for a single “Integrity Commissioner” for all the Townships.
This reform would provide Townships with economical legal services while curbing their natural tendency to unnecessarily escalate legal issues:- ie escalating a “tempest in a teapot” into a major “war”.
However, another idea might be to simply amalgamate all the local townships in west Renfrew County and north Hastings County into a new “single-tier” County (“Opeongo County”?) to get more effective and economical municipal governance.
Excellent suggestion. I also believe this whole mess could have been avoided had a neutral conflict resolution expert been invited to mediate it. That this went to court is a failure of common sense.
What a bunch of losers. I hope we will throw them all out at the first opportunity. And the staff who supported them!
I’m thrilled by this decision. Our mayor & township had numerous opportunities to make this right, but instead chose to throw away what will no doubt be well in excess of $100,000 of taxpayer money on this unnecessary legal battle. As a local taxpayer, I find this stance by our township downright offensive.
Perhaps part of the problem is that the municipality is not used to investigative reporting or any one questioning what they are doing. When we elected the council,we all expected transparency and responsible government. I must of missed the memo.
I agree, in fact what the area needs is a lot more investigative reporting. All our local municipal councils have no opposition (unlike the feds & prov), they select & rebuff public input, nor do they have any media scutiny (except the Current), and they know it!