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Ontario judge dismisses ‘puzzling’ $1M libel action by anti-vaxx nurses


An Ontario judge has dismissed a $1 million defamation action by three nurses, who face disciplinary action for their anti-vaccination views during the pandemic, calling the decision to sue of the sheriffs were “confusing” and “surprising”.

Kristen Nagle of London, Ont., Kristal Pitter of Tillsonburg, Ont., Sarah Choujounian of Toronto and Canada’s Frontline Nurses filed a court action under the province’s anti-SLAPP law in December 2021, accused the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and independent BC news agency Together News Inc. (TNI) damaged their personal and professional reputation with separate online articles published in the fall of 2021.

SLAPP, short for strategic litigation against public participation, is a legal ploy traditionally used by the rich and powerful to intimidate, silence, and/or bankrupt opponents. player. Ontario introduced legislation in 2015 designed to protect against gag procedure from using the courts to silence speech on matters of public interest.

CNA commentary can be read this. Articles of TNI can be read this.

In the 29-page decision issued on December 23, Supreme Court Justice Marie-Andrée Vermette sided with the defendants, saying the plaintiffs “did not prove that they were harmed enough” serious” and “fail to show a cause-and-effect link between the harms they allege”. and publications in circulation.”

Vermette Quotes law against SLAPPsays there are “significantly more significant sources of harm” to the reputations of nurses who are “not related” to the publications, including:

  • The province’s nursing regulator, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) has launched an investigation into professional misconduct against all three nurses.
  • The fact is that all three nurses have been terminated from their respective jobs with pretext.
  • Various media coverage of the nurses, including articles by what the court called “well-known media organisations.”

Vermette also questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to sue at the outset, calling it “confusing,” as similar information appeared in “many” other articles published in Canada.

She also said the decision to specifically sue TNI, “a small and regional media organization,” is “particularly surprising” because the plaintiffs “have chosen to ignore similar expressions of these guys.” media giant.”

‘No comment’ from plaintiff’s attorney

CBC was specifically cited by Vermette in the decision, who noted that Nagle “claimed that CBC ruined her career and ruined her life. The plaintiffs did not sue CBC for defamation.”

CBC News attempted to clarify the statement by Nagle, who did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

We were surprised when they decided to choose a small media agency on Vancouver Island. I think they underestimated us and put them at a disadvantage.– Will Horter, editor of the VanIsle news network

Alexander Boissonneau-Lehner, an attorney for the plaintiffs, responded “no comment” in an email when contacted by CBC News on Tuesday.

The court’s decision to dismiss the case under the anti-SLAPP law is the latest ruling against anti-vaccination and anti-science groups that are trying to use the court to silence and intimidate critics.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, SLAPP lawsuits were the traditional tactic of the rich and powerful to silence critics, but the legal tactic has been increasingly used recently by people spreading health misinformation in an attempt to silence critics.

Defendant calls action ‘classic SLAPP lawsuit’

“This is a classic SLAPP lawsuit in the sense that they are just trying to silence us,” Will Horter, editor of the VanIsle news network, which is owned by TNI, told CBC News on Tuesday.

Will Horter's photo
Will Horter, editor of the VanIsle news network, which is owned by Together News Incorporated, said the Ontario judge’s dismissal of the three nurses’ ‘defamation suit’ was an important victory for truth in Canada in the age of misinformation.’ (Will Horter/LinkedIn)

“We were surprised when they decided to choose a small media agency on Vancouver Island,” he said. “I think they underestimated us and put them at a disadvantage.

“We’re glad the judge made the decision she did,” Horter said. “I think it’s an important victory for truth in Canada in the age of disinformation.”

“CNA is pleased that the court has found that it is in the public interest to defend CNA’s claims,” Lucas Veiga, CNA’s public affairs leader, wrote via text message Wednesday.

“CNA takes its role in advocating for the nursing profession and the health and wellness system of people living in Canada seriously.”

Now that the judge has dismissed the case, all three parties must agree on the cost.

Under Ontario’s anti-SLAPP law, the defendant is entitled to the full cost of litigation unless the judge decides otherwise.

Vermette wrote in her decision that she will hear arguments to determine damages in January if the parties cannot agree on costs.

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