Defamation Law

Defamation law involves the protection of personal and business reputations from false allegations. At Grigoras Law, we handle complex issues related to both libel (written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation), providing robust representation for both plaintiffs and defendants. Our extensive knowledge and experience in this area of law positions us to effectively safeguard the rights and reputations of our clients.

Understanding Defamation

Defamation occurs when a false statement is communicated to a third party, causing harm to an individual’s or business’s reputation. The law of defamation presumes that such statements are false and damaging once three key elements have been established: first, the words clearly refer to the plaintiff; second, they have been published to a third party; and third, they are inherently defamatory.

Victims of defamation may be eligible for various forms of damages, ranging from general damages for loss of reputation and emotional distress to specific losses that are proven to have resulted directly from the defamation. In more serious cases where the defendant has acted maliciously or egregiously, plaintiffs may also be awarded aggravated or punitive damages.

Defamation Defences

Even when the essential elements of defamation are established, a defendant can successfully defend against a defamation claim if one of eight types of defences is proven; in fact, this is the battlefield where the conflict unfolds. These defences can range from justification (showing the defamatory statement was true) to qualified privilege (publishing the defamatory statement was done out of duty or legitimate interest and was not malicious), to statutory limitations, and more.

Our Approach at Grigoras Law

At Grigoras Law, our commitment is to provide our clients with meticulous and effective representation, whether you’re seeking to protect your reputation as a plaintiff or to defend yourself against a defamation claim as a defendant. We tailor our legal strategies to each client’s unique circumstances and objectives, providing a personalized and integrated approach to legal counsel.

We understand the intricacies of defamation law and use this understanding to help our clients navigate through the potentially challenging legal process, from the initial assessment of your case to the negotiation of settlements, and if necessary, representation at trial.

If you’re dealing with a defamation issue, we invite you to get in touch with us at Grigoras Law. Our commitment is to strive for the optimal resolution of your case. We’re ready to guide you through the intricacies of defamation law with dedication and precision.

FAQ

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this FAQ section are general in nature and should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. Each individual case is unique, and a separate analysis is required to address specific context and fact situations. For comprehensive guidance tailored to your situation, we welcome you to contact our expert team.

Yes, defamation can be a crime in Canada. Here’s a simplified explanation:

  1. What is criminal defamation? According to Section 300 of the Criminal Code of Canada, it’s a crime for someone to knowingly publish false defamatory material, meaning damaging statements that they are aware are untrue. If found guilty, a person can face up to five years in prison.

  2. How is defamatory material defined? It refers to published content that could harm someone’s reputation by subjecting them to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, or if it’s intended to insult the person about whom it’s published. Publication includes showing, sharing, or delivering this material with the intent that others will see or read it.

  3. Are there any defenses? Yes, the Criminal Code outlines several defenses. For instance:

    • Newspaper owners and sellers are generally not held responsible unless they knew or were negligent about the defamatory content.

    • Statements made in court or government proceedings are typically protected.

    • Reports that fairly represent public meetings, court, or parliamentary proceedings.

    • Statements believed to be true and in the public interest.

    • Responses made to challenges or to refute defamation against oneself.

    • Sharing information in response to an inquiry, when acting in good faith.

    • Sharing information when you have a legitimate interest in the topic and act reasonably.

    • Communicating to seek remedy for a wrong or grievance.

  4. What about Section 301? While there’s another section (Section 301) that considers publishing defamatory material a crime even without knowing it’s false, this has been deemed inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As a result, it’s not effective.

  5. Why is this crime recognized? Even though individuals can pursue civil lawsuits for defamation, the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledges the criminal provision as it reflects society’s condemnation of deliberate false statements that can cause significant harm. This law might deter those who don’t fear civil penalties and support those who can’t afford to initiate civil cases.

It’s essential to consult a legal expert when navigating this complex area. The above information is a summary and doesn’t cover every detail or nuance.

  1. Understanding Potential Damages in a Defamation Case:
    If you’re considering suing for defamation in Canada, one of the main motivations might be to seek damages. These damages can be considerable if one’s reputation has been significantly harmed by defamatory statements. Damages can include compensation for hurt feelings, damage to reputation, and even punitive damages aimed at punishing the offender. Importantly, there’s no preset maximum amount that can be awarded for defamation.

  2. Recovering Legal Expenses:
    When you win a defamation case in Canada, you are generally entitled to recover a portion of your legal fees from the losing party. This principle in Canadian courts dictates that the losing side typically contributes towards the legal fees of the winning side.

  3. Potential Risks of Litigating Defamation Cases:
    If you decide to pursue a defamation case and don’t succeed, particularly under legislative frameworks like the anti-SLAPP laws in Ontario, you might be required to pay a substantial portion, if not all, of the legal costs of the defending party. These costs can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  4. Court’s Role in Deciding Costs:
    Although there’s a general expectation for the losing side to cover some legal fees of the winning side, the precise amount is at the court’s discretion. Factors such as the conduct of the parties and whether their actions unnecessarily prolonged the litigation are taken into account. The court also weighs what is fair and reasonable for the losing party.

  5. Opportunities for Higher Recovery:
    In specific exceptional cases, plaintiffs who prevail in their defamation suits might recover almost all of their legal fees. This is particularly likely when the defendant’s actions were particularly malicious or deceitful. Recent cases involving online defamation underline the inclination of courts to award full legal costs when defamation takes place on the internet and has particularly harmful consequences.

  6. Defensive Measures for the Defendant:
    Those accused of defamation should gather pertinent evidence and think through potential defences. For online defamation cases, reviewing the content in question can help determine its nature—whether it’s genuinely defamatory or merely an expression of opinion. Removing or adjusting potentially defamatory online content might help avoid expensive litigation.

  7. Understanding Costs in Anti-SLAPP Cases:
    Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws are designed to deter lawsuits aimed at silencing individuals on matters of public interest. If a defamation case gets dismissed under this legislation, the party who sought the dismissal usually recovers their full legal costs. This increased cost framework serves public policy purposes, including deterring unnecessary defamation suits and upholding freedom of expression.

  8. Evaluating the Validity of the Case:
    Both parties, especially the plaintiff, should critically assess the real merits and intentions of a defamation claim. The court frowns upon cases brought in bad faith or with hidden motives. Gauging the actual damage and the validity of the claim is crucial.

  9. Considering Anti-SLAPP Motion Timing and Impact:
    Timing is critical when thinking of an anti-SLAPP motion. These motions are generally meant for early litigation stages. The objective is to avoid extensive exploration of the case’s merits, concentrating instead on the real impact and intent behind the defamation allegation.

In summary, while defamation claims can yield significant damages in Canada and help recoup legal expenses, they come with inherent risks. Thoroughly evaluating the merits of the case, potential legal costs, and the prevailing legal environment is paramount before embarking on a defamation lawsuit.

The realm of Internet and Social Media Defamation brings a new dimension to defamation law by adding a layer of complexity to the traditional understanding of defamation, as it extends beyond physical boundaries and territorial jurisdictions. The stakes of reputation protection now expand far beyond one’s immediate community, due to the far-reaching and instantaneous nature of digital communication.

In the past, the effect of defamation was generally localized, mostly affecting an individual’s local neighbours or business associates. However, the rise of the internet and social media has globalized the impact of defamatory statements. Today, a defamatory tweet or Facebook post can originate in one corner of the globe and instantaneously reach and cause harm in another.

These advancements pose significant legal challenges. For example, when a defamatory statement is published online, the question arises as to where the “publication” is considered to have occurred, and consequently, which court has jurisdiction over the case. The complexities extend further when considering cases involving individuals with strong personal and business ties across multiple countries.

Additional complexities lie in the determination of jurisdiction. In situations where a defendant resides outside the jurisdiction of the court where the claim was filed, it becomes essential for the plaintiff to establish a “real and substantial connection” between their chosen forum and the subject matter of the litigation. In the world of internet defamation, this often means demonstrating that the defamatory statement was accessed, read, or downloaded by at least one person within the chosen jurisdiction.

A further complication arises in the event of a forum non conveniens argument, where the defendant may argue that there is a more appropriate forum for the lawsuit. This stage of jurisdictional analysis becomes especially pertinent in internet defamation cases due to the expansive reach of online communication.

Lastly, the choice of law adds another layer of complexity, as the applicable law can significantly vary from one jurisdiction to another. The applicable law is typically the lex loci delicti (the law of the place where the harm occurred), but even this norm has been a subject of debate in internet defamation cases.

All these complexities necessitate a keen understanding of the legal landscape of Internet and Social Media Defamation, as well as strategic decision-making in terms of jurisdiction and applicable law. Defamation law is not only about navigating these complexities but also about defending or restoring an individual’s or entity’s reputation in the borderless realm of the digital world.

This is technically called an “injunction.” 

Within the scope of injunctions, one has to consider the intricate nuances of obtaining, defending, and comprehending interlocutory injunctions, particularly in defamation cases. The courts exercise meticulous caution while considering defamation injunctions due to their impact on freedom of expression and potential implications on defences such as justification or fair comment. Therefore, these injunctions are usually granted only in the most unequivocal cases.

For an injunction to be granted, a court must be convinced that any reasonable judge would deem the matter at hand to be libelous. The injunction will likely be denied in situations where the alleged defamatory meaning can be debated or if the defendant intends to justify or rely on fair comment unless it is evident that such a defence will fail. The court may also decline if the words were published on an occasion of qualified privilege, unless it is clear that the defendant’s proposed statement is patently malicious.

While considering defamation cases, courts are likely to acknowledge that damages can sufficiently compensate the plaintiff if they have been wronged, unless the defamation is particularly severe. The court may regard damages as an appropriate remedy if the defamation pertains to a corporation’s business practices. However, widespread internet publication of the defamation, causing harm that cannot be adequately compensated in damages, may tilt the balance in favour of granting an injunction.

In the event an injunction is granted, it should extend no further than necessary to protect the plaintiff from further publication of the defamatory words. The general test for interlocutory injunctions in civil litigation, prescribed by the Supreme Court of Canada, is modified in defamation cases. The injunction may only be granted to restrain defamatory speech where the publication is clearly defamatory, where any defence of justification or fair comment will evidently fail, and where the plaintiff can prove they will endure irreparable harm if the injunction is refused.

Courts may grant injunctions restraining conduct outside their jurisdiction, such as when a non-resident defendant has caused damage by publishing libels within the jurisdiction via the Internet. Also, injunctions can be granted post-judgment if there is a possibility that the defendant will continue to publish defamatory statements or if compensation may not be receivable from the defendant. In addition, in cases of internet defamation, a complainant can obtain a “Norwich” order that compels a third party to disclose essential information about the defendant, especially when the defamer’s identity is anonymous. This order plays a pivotal role in establishing the identity of the defendant, which is crucial for the jurisdiction and enforcement of court rulings.

Our practice also navigates the terrain of anti-SLAPP Screening. A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is often employed by corporations or wealthy individuals to suppress public participation or criticism on matters of public interest. SLAPP suits can result in the exhaustion of the target’s finances and energy, silencing them and discouraging others from participating in public debate.

Protection against these suits is provided under Ontario’s Protection of Public Participation Act. This act introduced new provisions in the Courts of Justice Act to discourage litigation that unduly limits freedom of expression on matters of public interest. These provisions encourage individuals to express themselves on public matters, promote broad participation in debates, discourage litigation as a means of limiting expression, and aim to reduce fear of legal action that could hamper public participation.

The legal standard allows a defendant to bring a motion to dismiss the proceeding if it arises from an expression made by them on a matter of public interest. An “expression” is defined broadly to include any form of communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, public or private. A proceeding “arises from” an expression if there’s a causal relationship, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a defamation or libel lawsuit directly concerned with the expression.

For an expression to relate to a matter of public interest, some segment of the community should have a genuine interest in receiving information on the subject. This includes issues involving governance and administration of public bodies, the conduct of governmental affairs, elections for public office, the operation of courts, and environmental policy. The quality or motive behind the expression doesn’t bear relevance at this stage.

If a defendant demonstrates that the expression relates to a matter of public interest, the responding party then must show grounds to believe that the proceeding has substantial merit, the defendant has no valid defence, and that the harm likely to be suffered is severe enough that the public interest in permitting the proceeding outweighs the public interest in protecting the expression. Failure to satisfy any of these requirements results in the dismissal of the proceeding.

The evaluation of “grounds to believe” refers to the existence of a factual and legal basis for concluding that the underlying claim has substantial merit, and the moving party has no valid defence. The “substantial merit” requirement demands that the underlying proceeding has a real prospect of success. If there’s any valid defence, the responding party has not met its burden, and the proceeding will be dismissed.

The final stage involves weighing the harm suffered and the public interest in continuing the proceeding against the public interest in protecting the expression. The responding party only needs to provide evidence for the motion judge to infer the likelihood of the existence of harm and its causal link to the expression in question. Both monetary and non-monetary harm are relevant, and any harm to reputation is of significant importance. Factors such as the quality and motivation behind the expression, the history of litigation between the parties, potential chilling effect on future expressions, and the disproportion between the resources used in the lawsuit and the harm caused are all considered in the weighing exercise.

Navigating the anti-SLAPP screening process requires a deep understanding of these legal intricacies, and we are equipped to guide you through this process.

Under the broader umbrella of defamation law, we often navigate related torts that might not fall squarely under traditional defamation but are nonetheless integral to our practice.

Malicious falsehood, or injurious falsehood, is one such area. This tort is focused on false statements that disparage a plaintiff’s property or goods, rather than the plaintiff’s personal reputation. The elements of this claim demand proof that the false words were published with malice, causing special damage to the plaintiff. This tort emphasizes economic harm, diverging from the emotional or reputational harm central to traditional defamation. Ontario’s Libel and Slander Act modifies the common law, lifting the requirement of proving special damage under specific circumstances.

In certain scenarios, negligence claims may surface in the context of defamation. Courts usually discourage framing actions as negligence when they essentially represent defamation claims, especially when intended to circumvent specific defamation limitations. Nevertheless, recent case law has revived the use of negligence theories in defamation settings, allowing for claims that encompass broader issues than merely the harmful statement itself. For example, a claim might include negligent handling of the situation surrounding the defamatory act. Such claims may be valid if there is proximity between plaintiff and defendant, foreseeability of harm, and damages cover more than just harm to the plaintiff’s reputation.

In addition, intentional interference with economic relations can sometimes be asserted alongside defamation. This cause of action entails proving that the defendant intended to injure the plaintiff, interfered with a third party’s liberty to deal with the plaintiff using wrongful means, and the plaintiff suffered economic loss as a result. In some cases, a defamatory statement might serve as the “wrongful means” of interference.

Violations of privacy, including the publication of intimate images and “intrusion upon seclusion,” may also be actionable alongside defamation. While the truth is generally a defense in defamation, the publication of truthful information can still infringe upon an individual’s privacy, creating a separate cause of action. Some provinces have statutes providing causes of action for violation of privacy without requiring proof of special damage. These legal provisions protect an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy from wilful or substantial violations.

Finally, the tort of conspiracy can arise in defamation cases, although it has specific requirements and contexts in which it applies. The tort of conspiracy involves individuals acting in combination with the intent to cause injury or engage in unlawful conduct directed at the plaintiff. An allegation of conspiracy is typically valid only if it’s not duplicative of another tort claim or if the damages claimed result from the conspiracy rather than the defamation itself.

By understanding and incorporating these related torts into our practice, we provide a comprehensive approach to protecting our clients’ rights beyond traditional defamation law.

In Toronto, as well as the rest of Ontario, defamation law revolves around three core criteria, which is like a test for defamation:

  1. Identification: The statement in question must clearly be about the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit).

  2. Publication: The statement must have been shared or shown to someone other than the person it’s about.

  3. Damage to Reputation: The words used in the statement must harm the person’s reputation in the eyes of the general public. Essentially, if an average person would think less of you because of the statement, it could be defamatory.

If these three factors are present, the law automatically assumes two things: the statement is untrue, and the affected person has suffered damages because of it.

The court then determines a suitable compensation for the harm to the individual’s reputation and feelings. This compensation, known as “general damages,” is set to make amends, offer comfort, and help rebuild the individual’s tarnished reputation.

On top of these general damages, if the person can prove they’ve faced specific financial or other losses due to the defamation, they can receive additional compensation, termed “actual” or “special” damages.

If the person proves that the party who made the statement did so with malicious intent, then the damages can increase, as the court might award “aggravated damages.” In especially severe cases where the conduct was shockingly wrong, “punitive damages” may be given as a strong reprimand to the offending party.

It’s important to note, however, that given the relatively low threshold for establishing defamation, a significant amount of the litigation in this area focuses on the various defences to defamation claims. If you’re interested in diving deeper into these defences and understanding how they can shield individuals or entities from such claims, check out our detailed blog post on the topic.

In defamation cases, the amount of compensation you might receive depends largely on the specific circumstances of your case. There are four types of damages typically awarded: General Damages, Aggravated Damages, Punitive Damages, and Special Damages. The range of compensation is based on data from Ontario as of the summer of 2023.

General Damages: General Damages are presumed from the publication of libel (written defamation) and don’t require proof of actual loss. In cases of slander (spoken defamation), a plaintiff is usually required to demonstrate actual damages, unless the slander falls into a category of “actionable per se.” In Ontario, 15 cases saw awards below $5,000, 49 cases ranged between $5,000 and $25,000, 27 cases ranged between $25,001 and $100,000, 9 cases ranged between $100,001 and $200,000, and 5 cases were awarded $200,001 or higher.

Aggravated Damages: Aggravated Damages are awarded when the defendant’s conduct has been particularly high-handed or oppressive, causing additional harm to the plaintiff. This includes instances where the defendant’s actions have caused increased mental distress, humiliation, or wide publicity of the defamation. The awards have ranged as follows: 10 cases were below $5,000, 23 cases ranged between $5,000 and $25,000, 6 cases ranged between $25,001 and $100,000, 4 cases ranged between $100,001 and $200,000, and 2 cases were awarded $200,001 or higher.

Punitive Damages: Punitive Damages are awarded in cases where the defendant’s misconduct is extremely malicious, oppressive, and high-handed, to the extent that it offends the court’s sense of decency. The goal of punitive damages is retribution, deterrence, and denunciation. In Ontario, 3 cases saw awards below $5,000, 16 cases ranged between $5,000 and $25,000, 8 cases ranged between $25,001 and $100,000, 1 case ranged between $100,001 and $200,000, and 1 case was awarded $200,001 or higher.

Special Damages: Special Damages are awarded for tangible pecuniary loss caused by the defamation. They are not presumed and must be pleaded and proven in court. Examples might include business losses or a general decline in patronage or custom attributable to the defamation. In Ontario, 1 case saw an award below $5,000, 1 case ranged between $5,000 and $25,000, 1 case ranged between $25,001 and $100,000, and 1 case was awarded $200,001 or higher.

These are just ranges and each case is unique. It’s important to consult with a lawyer to get a better understanding of potential outcomes based on your specific circumstances.

Defamation lawsuits can be very costly due to their highly technical nature, the requirement to evaluate each allegedly defamatory statement in detail, and the eight different types of defences available for each statement. The cost will heavily depend on the specifics of the case and the level of complexity involved.

An indication of the potential cost can be gleaned from the legal costs associated with anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motions. These motions emerged as a response to the use of defamation lawsuits by well-funded plaintiffs as a means to suppress freedom of expression on matters of public interest.

While a successful anti-SLAPP motion can result in an outright dismissal of a defamation lawsuit, if the case continues towards trial, it can become quite expensive. The costs can even be significant at the anti-SLAPP motion stage itself. For example, in a recent court of appeal case, the defendants sought full indemnity costs of over $375,000 just for the anti-SLAPP motion. Although the court highlighted the necessity of focusing on the core analysis rather than conducting a “trial in a box,” the technicality and complexity inherent to defamation claims often lead to significant costs.

Ultimately, while each case will be unique, this example demonstrates that defamation lawsuits can result in legal fees and disbursements potentially running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The court, in that case, also suggested a guideline ceiling of $50,000 for full indemnity costs in anti-SLAPP motions, but this is merely a guideline and actual costs can exceed this amount. Therefore, potential litigants must be prepared for these possible costs when considering a defamation lawsuit.

In a defamation claim, the law recognizes several categories of damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff who has suffered a loss of reputation. These damages serve different purposes and are intended to ensure that justice is served and the plaintiff’s loss is adequately compensated.

  1. General Damages: In the context of libel (which refers to written defamation), general damages are presumed. This means that they do not require the plaintiff to prove an actual loss. They are intended to compensate the plaintiff for non-monetary harms, such as damage to their reputation, personal humiliation, and mental anguish.

    In the case of slander (oral defamation), however, the plaintiff generally has to demonstrate actual damages, in the sense of a tangible loss of business, money, or property, unless the slander falls into certain specific categories. These categories, referred to as “slander actionable per se”, do not require the plaintiff to prove actual damage. They include:

    • Statements implying the plaintiff committed a criminal offence.

    • Statements defaming the plaintiff in their office, profession, calling, trade, or business.

    • Statements asserting the plaintiff has a “loathsome disease.”

    The reason for these exceptions is that such slanders are considered either very likely to cause financial harm, or are so offensive that they warrant legal action regardless of any pecuniary loss.

  2. Aggravated Damages: These are awarded in circumstances where the defendant’s conduct has been particularly egregious or offensive, causing the plaintiff additional harm. They aim to compensate the plaintiff for additional suffering caused by the defendant’s malicious conduct, such as increased mental distress or humiliation, or wide publication of the libelous material. For example, if the defendant continued to defame the plaintiff after the legal action was initiated or knowingly spread false information, this could form the basis for an award of aggravated damages. It’s important to note that a corporation cannot be awarded aggravated damages, as these damages are tied to emotional distress, which a corporation cannot experience.

  3. Punitive Damages: These are awarded in cases where the defendant’s misconduct is so severe and outrageous that it offends the court’s sense of decency. Unlike general and aggravated damages, which aim to compensate the plaintiff for their losses, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are not linked to the plaintiff’s loss, and so they can be viewed as a windfall for the plaintiff. As such, they should only be awarded in exceptional circumstances where the combined award of general and aggravated damages is insufficient to achieve the goals of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation.

  4. Special Damages: These damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for specific, quantifiable monetary losses caused by the defamation, such as lost business or employment opportunities. Unlike general damages, special damages are not presumed from the publication of a libel. Instead, they must be specifically claimed by the plaintiff and proven in court. The burden of proof can be challenging, as it often requires clear evidence linking the defamation to the financial loss. If the plaintiff does claim specific economic loss, they should be prepared for an examination of their financial affairs.

It’s important to note that these categories of damages are not mutually exclusive. In a single defamation action, a plaintiff could potentially recover general damages, aggravated damages, punitive damages, and special damages, depending on the specifics of the case.

The exact nature and amount of damages awarded will vary based on the circumstances of each case and the jurisdiction in which the case is heard. Therefore, it’s always recommended to seek advice from a legal professional if you’re involved in a defamation case.

Defamation is a legal term used to describe a false statement that harms someone’s reputation. There are two main types of defamation: slander and libel.

Slander pertains to spoken defamatory statements. Imagine someone spreading false rumours about you by speaking to others; that’s slander. In some unique instances, other fleeting means, like sign language or a short-lived skywriting, might also be considered slander. But mostly, it’s about spoken words.

Libel, on the other hand, deals with written or otherwise permanent forms of defamatory statements. Think of a defamatory article, blog post, or even a tweet.

The distinction between slander and libel is not just about the medium. It has essential implications for legal actions:

  1. Proof of Damages: With libel, the harm is often presumed because the statement is in a permanent form, accessible and potentially damaging over a long period. But with slander, its transitory nature historically made the courts less inclined to intervene unless there’s tangible harm. This means that for slander, the person affected (plaintiff) generally needs to show they’ve suffered actual losses like loss of business or money due to the false statement.

  2. Exceptions to the Rule: Slander isn’t always required to show tangible loss. There are certain severe cases where slanderous statements are deemed harmful by their very nature. These are called “slanders actionable per se.” There are three main categories:

    • Criminal Accusations: If someone falsely claims you committed a crime, that’s actionable without proving damages.

    • Professional Disrepute: If the slander affects your profession or trade, it’s considered exceptionally harmful. For example, if a dentist is falsely accused of reusing needles, even if spoken, this can be very damaging.

    • Claiming a Contagious Disease: Historically, if someone wrongfully said you had a “loathsome disease,” it was slander per se. In modern terms, think of severe diseases like AIDS or Ebola.

In essence, while both slander and libel can tarnish one’s reputation, they differ in their form and the nature of proof required in court. If you believe you’ve been a victim of either, consulting with legal professionals will provide a clearer understanding and the best recourse.

Defamation claims, at their core, function like many other legal disputes. If you feel you’ve been wrongly defamed, you’d step into the role of the “plaintiff” and initiate a lawsuit against the party you believe wronged you, known as the “defendant.” You’d typically be seeking damages or some other form of relief. Essentially, the main foundational rules that govern how civil disputes are managed in court, called the Rules of Civil Procedure, apply here too. However, due to the unique nature of the harm caused by defamation—essentially harm to one’s reputation—there are specific procedures and nuances in defamation cases that distinguish them from other civil disputes. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Notice and Limitations:

    • In Ontario, if you believe you’ve been defamed in a newspaper or a broadcast, you need to act quickly. Within six weeks of becoming aware of the alleged defamation, you must provide a written notice to the defendant detailing the content you find offensive. This notice needs to be either served in the same way as a statement of claim or given to an adult at the defendant’s main office.

    • If this six-week notice requirement is not met, you cannot proceed with a lawsuit for defamation from newspapers or broadcasts in Ontario.

  2. Where to Sue (Jurisdiction):

    • Defamation claims can get tricky when it comes to deciding where to file a lawsuit. If a defamatory statement is spread across multiple locations (like online or in international publications), the victim can theoretically sue in any of those places.

    • For online defamation, including on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, the lawsuit’s location is typically where the harmful statement was read or downloaded. For instance, if someone in Ontario read a defamatory tweet about you, you could potentially sue in Ontario.

  3. Proving Publication:

    • To move forward with your case in Ontario, you need to show that the alleged defamatory statement was indeed “published” or seen by at least one person (other than yourself) in Ontario. This can be evidenced by showing downloads from specific Internet addresses in Ontario or using data on the website’s general usage and its visibility in search engine results.

  4. Choosing the Right Forum:

    • If the defendant lives outside Ontario, they might challenge the choice of Ontario as the right place for the lawsuit. In response, you’d need to prove a strong connection between the defamation and Ontario.

    • The defendant can counter-argue by suggesting another jurisdiction as a more appropriate venue for the lawsuit, especially if your reputation is more significant there.

  5. SLAPP Proceedings:

    • Ontario has laws to prevent misuse of the legal system to silence critics through lawsuits. Known as “anti-SLAPP” laws (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), these provisions help dismiss cases where the main goal is to inhibit freedom of speech on public issues.

    • If you’re the defendant and believe a lawsuit is primarily meant to silence you, you can seek dismissal under these provisions.
  6. Understanding Local Laws:

    • The specific laws applied to a defamation case can vary based on where the harm occurred. However, this aspect has seen varied interpretations, especially with online defamation. It’s essential to be aware that the defamation laws might differ between jurisdictions.

Always keep in mind that every defamation case has its unique attributes. Consulting with a legal expert who is well-versed in Ontario’s defamation laws is crucial, whether you’re considering initiating a claim or defending against one.

Talk to a Defamation Lawyer