B’nai Brith Canada v. Alexander Dimitri Lascaris
(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)
Judgments and orders - Torts, Libel and slander - Judgments and orders — Anti SLAPP legislation — Summary dismissal — Torts — Libel and slander — Applicant published in article and tweet that respondent advocates on behalf of terrorists — Respondent brought claim in libel and slander and applicant responded with anti SLAPP motion for summary dismissal of claim — How does a court evaluate the merits of claims and validity of defences in determining whether to dismiss proceedings under section 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act? — How does a court assess and weigh the seriousness of the harm suffered by the responding party in balancing the competing public interests engaged by motions under section 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act? — Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C. 43, s. 137.1.
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The province of Ontario is the first to legislate anti “SLAPP” legislation (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), which came into force in November 2015. The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015, amended the Courts of Justice Act to introduce ss. 137.1 to 137.5 which sections created a new pretrial procedure which allows defendants to move expeditiously and early in the litigation for an order dismissing claims arising out of expressions by defendants on matters of public interest. The underlying action in this case is one of libel and slander. The applicant, B’Nai Brith Canada, is a charitable organization involved in human rights and advocacy initiatives for the Canadian Jewish community. The respondent, Mr. Lascaris, is a lawyer, human rights advocate, independent journalist and former candidate and justice critic of the federal Green Party. Mr. Lascaris was publicly criticized by B’Nai Brith for having met, while in Israel, with the father of an alleged terrorist. Citing this meeting, and by way of two separate publications, B’Nai Brith accused Mr. Lascaris of being an advocate of terrorists. Mr. Lascaris initiated a claim in libel and slander, and B’Nai Brith brought a motion for an order dismissing the action pursuant to the new anti SLAPP regime. B’Nai Brith was initially successful before the motion judge, but Mr. Lascaris’ action was reinstated on appeal.
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