by The Canadian Press – Jul 22, 2013
The B.C. Court of Appeal has placed a muzzle on an anti-salmon-farming “zealot” and ordered the man to pay $75,000 in damages to one of the province’s biggest fish farming operations.
A three-member panel ruled unanimously Monday that lower-court judge, Justice Elaine Adair, erred when she dismissed Mainstream Canada’s defamation lawsuit against Don Staniford and upheld the campaigner’s defence of fair comment.
In written reasons, Justice David Tysoe said the defamatory publications did not meet all four elements of a legal test because Staniford didn’t reference the facts upon which he based his comments.
The lower court heard part of Staniford’s 2011 campaign mimicked cigarette packages with warnings like “Salmon Farming Kills Like Smoking.”
“It is my opinion that the facts upon which Mr. Staniford’s defamatory comments were based were not all notorious, contained in the defamatory publications or sufficiently referenced to be contained in other specified documents,” said Tysoe.
“All of the readers of the publications were not in a position to make up their own minds about the merits of what Mr. Staniford said in the publications.”
As a result, Staniford did not satisfy the defence of fair comment and the judge erred in dismissing the company’s defamation claim, said Tysoe.
The court then ordered Staniford to pay $25,000 in general and $50,000 in punitive damages, referring in the latter award to the campaigner’s conduct during the initial 2012 trial.
Tysoe’s ruling noted Staniford relaunched his website and said an injunction would not stop him, accused First Nations of accepting “blood money” from Mainstream Canada and compared the trial to a Kangaroo court. He also made “sexist and puerile” comments online about two female witnesses called by the company.
Tysoe also referred to Adair’s description of Staniford, saying the activist was “akin to a zealot,” “virtually anything that conflicts with his view and vision is wrong, bad, disgraceful and worse,” he “seems incapable of conceding he might be wrong on some things.”
Besides damages and court costs, Tysoe also granted a permanent injunction, requested by the Norwegian-owned company, restraining Staniford from “publishing similar words and images in the future.”