Richard Warman seems to do very well in Ottawa with defamation suits. The courts there seem to like him and he pockets fat awards, plus costs. He’s a hometown boy. His wife too works in the legal system. It’s tough for outsiders like the Fourniers or CAFE/Fromm or others who have not had the home town advantage. On January 23, a provincial superior judge, Robert Smith, slapped the Fourniers with a crushing Singapore-style $127,000 judgement — damages and costs for Richard Warman in a six-year long defamation suit. The Fourniers are shutting down their website Free Dominion, at least as a discussion board.
They write: “As of today, January 23, 2014, and after 13 years online, Free Dominion is closing its doors to the public. We have been successfully censored.
Today, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith issued an order in the Richard Warman vs Mark and Connie Fournier and John Does defamation case heard September, 2013. In addition to ordering that we must pay Warman $127,000, Justice Smith issued an injunction against us ordering we that never publish, or allow to be published, anything negative about Richard Warman. This means we are barred for life from ever operating a public forum or a blog (even about cookie recipes) where the public can comment. If we do so, any one of Warman’s handful of supporters could, and probably would, use a common proxy server to avoid being traced, plant a negative comment about Warman on our site, and we would both be charged with contempt of court. If that happened –unlike in the Ottawa courtroom where we were blocked at every turn from presenting a defense– we actually would have no defense. We would both go to jail. This life sentence was imposed for our terrible crimes of voicing our honestly held beliefs and allowing others to do the same. Defamation law, in its current state, is entirely inadequate and counterproductive when applied to the internet. Now it is being used as a tool of censorship. Effectively!
We are assessing our options.
Mark and Connie Fournier
The good news is that the Fourniers are appealing.
A lawyer we consulted says that Canada’s libel laws have to be changed and brought into the age of the Internet. To make the owner of a discussion board responsible for the comments of anonymous posters is repressive and unrealistic. In the U.S., an aggrieved person must go after the person who wrote the post, not the owner of the discussion board.
The injunction granted to Richard Warman is an outrage. It makes 41 comments — deemed defamatory — forbidden. While the Fourniers may be able to tiptoe in their own comments around the thin-skinned self-styled Ottawa “human rights” lawyer, they fear a troll, a mischievous “anti-racist” or even an exuberant critic of Warman’s decade long attack on posters he disapproves of on the Internet might repeat one of the forbidden criticisms — even as I am forbidden by Madam Monique Metivier’s judgement to call Mr. Warman a “censor” — and, thus, land the Fourniers into a position where they are in contempt of court and on a swift trip to prison — two more potential political prisoners in this land that preaches free speech, but practices repression.
Canada’s libel laws desperately need reform. As they stand now, they are capriciously applied, A prominent Vancovuer shock jock called Doug Christie “a perverted monster” for defending Ernst Zundel’s right to speak. That was not considered defamatory. Canada’s libel laws are beginning to resemble those of Singapore in the past. Yes, opposition to the strongman was permitted and there was a feeble opposition and the trappings of democracy. However, any opposition politician who criticized a government member quickly found himself sued for libel. Ruinous judgements soon all but silenced the opposition.
Sadly, Canada seems headed in this direction.
The Fourniers have decided to shut down FreeDominion as a discussion board. That may be wise in a repressive state but it is sad. Canada needs more spirited discussion, not less.
Conservative website shuttered after libel ruling
Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman wins long-running legal battle
Richard 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.
Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger , BRUNO SCHLUMBERGER
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 website’s 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, we’d 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.
“It’s really sad to be at the point where we have to shut down the political forum,” she said. “But we’ve 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.”
CANADIAN ASSOCIATION FOR FREE EXPRESSION