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