Friday, August 14, 2015

Chan Lawsuit Illustrates Why Canadian Libel Law Needs Reform

The sight of a Canadian politician suing a Canadian newspaper and a Canadian professor for libel should cause anyone who favors lively debate on current issues to think something is terribly, terribly wrong.

And Michael Chan, MPP for Markham-Unionville and Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, isn't the first politician to use libel to try to shut down criticism. Brian Mulroney famously threatened a suit against the Canadian government itself. Unbelievably, he actually got the government to back down and pay him a $2 million settlement.

The US has the right approach here. The bar for public figures like Chan and Mulroney should be set extremely high. Otherwise, we get what we have in Canada: libel chill makes investigative journalists too scared to take on powerful figures.

1 comment:

William Spearshake said...

And proving libel is not as easy as some may think. Libel is not simply telling falsehoods about someone. There is also the requirement to demonstrate that the person accused of libel transmitted these falsehoods with the knowledge that they were false. It is this latter part that the bar has been lowered, or eroded. But, if a person is acquitted of libel, does this not mean that their accuser is guilty of it?

I think that politics would improve if we removed the protection that politicians have in question period against slander.