2019 October 30
R. v. Dhillon, 2019 BCCA 373
The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from a conviction for criminal contempt for breaching court orders which enjoined the accused from publishing “disparaging or defamatory statements about a Trustee in Bankruptcy, counsel for the Trustee or any other person connected to the administration of this bankruptcy.” The accused published two blogs anonymously in 2010. The accused argued unsuccessfully on this appeal that the trial judge erred concluding that truth was not available as a defence for criminal contempt in the circumstances. Rejecting this argument, the Court of Appeal agreed with the lower court that the character of a statement determines whether it is defamatory, not its falsity. “Defamation is demonstrated where published statements are shown, in the eyes of a reasonable person, to lower the reputation of the person about whom they are made: Taseko Mines Limited v Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 2017 BCCA 431.” “The defence of truth is available in tort actions after defamation is prima facie established.” “The defence is not available here, as the [injunction] orders did not provide an exception for truth or any other justification or defence.” “The appellant was convicted for violating the clear and unambiguous terms of a court order, and not for committing the tort of defamation.” Note: An application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was dismissed on April 16, 2020: 2020 CanLII 27688 (SCC).