<< return to previous page

2003 November 12
Christian Labour Association of Canada v Retail Wholesale Union, 2003 BCSC 2000

The British Columbia Supreme Court considered a common law defence of qualified privilege pleaded by two unions in relation to a defamatory posting on their website about a rival union, the plaintiff.  Christian Labour Association of Canada v Retail Wholesale Union et al, 2003 BCSC 2000. 

Although the defendant contended the defamatory expression was “aimed” only at its own members -- who would have an interest in receiving union news  --the court noted the defamatory message was not posted in the password-protected ‘chat room’ on the union website;  instead the message was posted on the portion of the website to which anyone could have access.  

It was admitted that the public would not have an interest in the message as a political one or as a public statement. 

Although there had been 530 visits to the site, the identity of the visitors could not be proven precisely. 

In these circumstances, the Court held that the publication was “excessive” thereby defeating the claim of privilege for the website posting.    

The Court stated [at paragraphs 30-31]:

In my opinion the defendants’ claim for qualified privilege on the materials before me must fail.  I find that the likelihood of a significant exposure to persons not interested is there, and that it is excessive because it is not incidental and reasonably necessary to publish the messages on the defendants’ website without restriction.

It is not that the internet and use of a website is to be discouraged, but if statements are to be made which are admittedly defamatory, and there is a risk of significant numbers of uninterested people seeing it, that can be excessive, and will be if restrictions are available but disregarded.

See McConchie and Potts, Canadian Libel and Slander Actions, “Chapter Thirty-Five, Pre-Trial Disposition of Claims and Defences,” “Summary Trial”, page 666, 669-670.

     back to top
<< return to previous page