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Canadian Internet Defamation Rulings
This case is filed under Substantive Defences
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2020 July 2
Nanda v. McEwan, 2020 ONCA 431

The Ontario Court of Appeal held that a defamation lawsuit over statements made in two invitation-only “WhatsApp” chat groups (and posters and flyers) during a union election campaign was not barred by  Ontario’s anti-SLAPP provisions contained in s. 137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43.  Dismissing an appeal by the defendants, the Court of Appeal agreed with the motion judge’s conclusion that the public interest in permitting the action to proceed must prevail.  Noting that “s137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act does not apply only to litigation that meets the criteria of a SLAPP” (underlining in the original), the Court of Appeal nevertheless emphasized that “deliberate falsehoods, gratuitous personal attacks or vulgar and offensive language” may reduce the public interest in protecting that speech, compared to cases where the message is delivered “’without the lies, vitriol, and obscenities.’”  “[T]he quality of the expressions and the motivation of the speaker are relevant to the measure of public interest in protecting the expression.”  “This is hardly a classic SLAPP.”