Don Staniford, et al. v. Mainstream Canada, a Division of EWOS Canada Ltd.

(British Columbia) (Civil) (By Leave)


Torts - Libel and slander, Defences.


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Torts – Libel and slander – Defences – Fair comment – Applicant publishing comments about farm fisheries on website – Whether appeal court erred by setting the requirement that the facts upon which the comment is based be identified by a clear reference so that the audience can evaluate the comment itself – Whether it erred in requiring all the facts underpinning comment to be notorious or identified by clear reference and in failing to apply British Chiropractic Association v. Singh, [2010] EWCA Civ 350 as a limit to defamation claims in a scientific context – Whether appeal court erred in failing to take into account the context and form of the publications and nature and background of the audience – Whether it erred by failing to accord the Defendant the defence of fair comment.

Mainstream Canada (“Mainstream”) brought an action against Mr. Staniford, for damages for defamation. Mainstream was the second largest producer of farmed salmon in British Columbia and a member of the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association (“BCSFA”). Mr. Staniford was a longtime activist dedicated to the eradication of salmon farming and in October, 2010 he launched a website called Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (“GAAIA”). In January 2011, the BCSFA published a series of advertisements promoting farmed salmon. Mr. Staniford responded by distributing a press release that was also published on his website describing the launch of a global health campaign against farmed salmon. In a series of postings to the website, he compared farmed salmon to smoking and employed graphic imagery and wording to assert that farmed salmon caused cancer. The publications also compared companies such as Mainstream to cigarette manufacturers. A link to blog postings attacked the BCSFA advertisements as blatant lies and untruths. Mainstream alleged that the words were defamatory and capable of bearing the meaning that its business and products were unsafe for human consumption and that it was knowingly and misleadingly marketing a carcinogenic product.