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Libel Defence For Press And Bloggers

Published: December 22, 2009 10:29 pm ET

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Two major newspapers were exonerated of libel by the Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday in what is being hailed as a landmark victory for free speech.

The case dealt with the Toronto Star’s story about controversial plans to build a golf course and the Ottawa Citizen’s articles scrutinizing the activities of a former police officer. The decision resulted in the newspapers avoiding damages totaling $1.5 million.

"It's probably the most important decision the Supreme Court's ever decided on the law of libel. It modernizes our laws to better reflect freedom of speech and that's in the public interest," said Paul Schabas, the Star lawyer, who represented the newspaper in the defamation case brought by Ontario businessman Peter Grant. "It means that the media and anybody else who's acting responsibly can put something out for public debate and not be chilled because they can't ultimately prove that it's true in a court of law years later."

"There's now room been made under the Charter of Rights for freedom of expression, that if you don't prove every fact true in a court of law there's still room that your public interest story, done responsibly, is protected and you can't get sued for libel," said Ottawa lawyer Richard Dearden.

For more on the story, click here.

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