Defamation (slander / Libel)
Defamation law is an attempt to strike a balance between the right to free expression and restitution for individuals who have been harmed by that free expression.
Defamation refers to harming another person’s reputation by making a false written or oral statement about that person to a third party in public. Defamation law is not about protecting pride, and is generally about paying damages to people that have been harmed by the false written or oral statement. Almost all defamation cases involve one person suing another for damages from defamatory statements that have already been made.
It should also be noted that defamation law in Canada varies from province to province. In Ontario, for example, legislation on defamation is found in the Libel and Slander Act. In general, defamation can be subdivided into libel and slander:
Libel: defamation with a permanent record, such as an email, a radio or TV broadcast, a newspaper, a website posting, etc.
Slander: defamation with no permanent record, such as a spoken statement or even a hand gesture.
Please note that the Tort of Defamation is an intentional tort, of which intent needed to be proven. If a statement was made by mistake, and was not intended to cause harm, it wouldn't be caught by the Tort of Defamation.
There are a number of legal defenses against defamation:
You can claim that the statement was true; a true statement cannot be defamatory.
You can claim “absolute privilege,” which means that the communication was made in a venue where people ought to have absolute privilege to speak freely; this includes Parliament debate or giving evidence in a trial.
You can claim “qualified privilege,” which means that the communication was given in a non-malicious and well-intentioned context and therefore ought to be excused: for example, giving an honest but negative reference to a former employee in the form of Record of Employment (ROE) or in a termination letter.
You can claim “fair comment,” which means that your statement was a non-malicious opinion about a matter of public interest: for example, an editorial in a newspaper about a politician or a public figure.
You can claim “responsible communication on matters of public importance,” which allows journalists to report false allegations if the news is urgent and of public importance, and if the journalist made an effort to verify the information. Even if the statement is false, the public has an interest in this type of discussion being legally permissible.
A Defamation suite is extremely complicated and is highly technical. If you are a victim of a slander or a libel, you are advised to seek legal advice immediately before the matter is statutory barred from commencing.
HTW Law can help. Call us now at 647-849-6582 or send us a message if you have some legal questions / inquiries or want to schedule an appointment with HTW Law.