Order to Disclose Anonymous Postings Denied (Ontario)

25 Jul

On July 20th, Justice Carole Brown of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice declined to order production of information that would tend to identify individuals who anonymously posted statements on a municipal affairs website.

Justice Brown held that the plaintiff did not meet her burden of establishing a prima facie case of defamation because she failed to provide sufficient particulars and failed to serve a timely notice of intended action in defamation. While the motion was disposed of on these technical grounds, Justice Brown also stressed the importance of the prima facie case standard given the statements the plaintiff alleged to be defamatory related to her former political office:

I am cognizant, in the present case, that the alleged defamatory statements were made in the context of a hard-fought political campaign. They clearly related to the mayoral position and the governance of the Mayor, councillors and the municipal government generally. In ensuring that proper weight is given to the important value of freedom of expression, particularly in the political context, the importance of the stringent prima facie test is necessary to protect and balance the public interest in favour of disclosure with the competing interests of privacy and freedom of expression.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion.

Morris v. Johnson, 2011 ONSC 3996 (CanLII).

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