TORT LAW - Defamation - Defamatory statements - Fair comment - Matters of public interest

Law360 Canada (May 19, 2023, 1:13 PM EDT) -- Appeal by Hansman from a decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal that set aside an order dismissing a defamation action. Neufeld was a public school trustee who made negative comments online about the implementation of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 123 (SOGI 123) program in schools. Hansman, who at the time was the president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, publicly criticized Neufeld’s comments. He called Neufeld’s views bigoted, transphobic, and hateful and accused him of undermining safety and inclusivity for transgender and other 2SLGBTQ+ students in schools. Neufeld commenced a defamation action against Hansman. Hansman brought an application to have the defamation action dismissed under s. 4 of the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA). The chambers judge concluded there was likely a valid defence of fair comment and the value in protecting Hansman’s expression outweighed the resulting harm done to Neufeld. He allowed the application and dismissed Neufeld’s action. Neufeld appealed. He argued there were grounds to believe that Hansman would be unable to establish that certain of his statements were based in fact. He also argued Hansman’s statements were not comments but imputations of fact and Hansman acted with malice in making the challenged statements. The majority of the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and reinstated the defamation action....
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