Crescent Chau, et al. v. Epoch Times Montreal Inc., et al.

(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)


Civil liability.


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Civil liability – Defamation – Whether in determining the balance between freedom of expression and reputation a different measure should be used in expression of opinion and false or unfair expression of fact – Whether the courts have recently confused these two situations – Whether permitting someone to be called a spy or foreign agent merely because he espouses certain political views of a foreign power creates a chill on freedom of expression.

The applicant Crescent Chau is a strong critic of the Falun Gong movement. He owns the Chinese-language newspaper La Presse Chinoise, operated through the applicant Presse Chinoise (Québec) Eastern Inc. (“Presse Chinoise”), which he has used to criticize the movement and its practitioners. The respondent Epoch Times Montreal (“ETM”) publishes one Chinese and one French newspaper in the Montreal area. In 2007, ETM published several articles in the Chinese edition alleging that there were similarities between the views expressed by Mr. Chau with respect to Falun Gong and those expressed by the Chinese government. Among other things, the articles suggested that Mr. Chau’s newspaper was part of a group of media controlled or financed by the Chinese government to promote its views to the expatriate Chinese communities. Mr. Chau and Presse Chinoise sued the respondents for defamation. The Superior Court dismissed the action on the basis that the litigious statements could not, in the eyes of a member of the Montreal Chinese community (the target market for the newspaper), constitute an unfair attack on the reputation of either Mr. Chau or Presse Chinoise. In the Court’s view, the statements expressed legitimate concerns and constituted an opinion which was drawn from a factual premise and not made for the purposes of abusively attacking Mr. Chau or Presse Chinoise. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.