#60 – A wonderful gift from Canada’s Supreme Court.

It is a rare event. Just three days before Chistmas, there was a fleeting announcement that perked up the ears of writers. The Supreme Court of Canada had finally repaired the rents in Canada’s libel laws. Libel chill is not completely off the table but the honest belief of the writer in what he or she is reporting can now be considered over the supposed damage to the reputation of the subject.

The laws of libel have been a serious challenge to Canadians learning the truth since the days of George Brown, Father of Confederation and founder of Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. People such as Conrad Black have used Canada’s old libel laws to mock reporters in search of the truth with easy threats of libel action. The law previously put the onus on writers to have a legal definition of the truth ready for their defence. To our shame, it took a Chicago district attorney to finally bring down the high flying Black.

For the first time, Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin wrote in her report for the nine jurists that bloggers were also included under the definition of reporters. The fact that it was a unanimous decision gave considerable strength and substance to the opinion.

In a career as a writer, there is a new feeling of freedom evinced by the ruling. It will not mean as much to the reader at first because the differences are still in the arcane language of jurisprudence. To a responsible writer, there is an opening to name names when before you could not do so. For example, if you asked before, I would not tell you, in writing, why Robert Rymell, P. Eng., operating as RBS Consulting Engineering Group Inc. of Innisfil, Ontario, is not my first choice as a swimming pool engineer. I would not have been able to tell you that he cost two condominiums in Barrie more than $750,000 to replace a swimming pool that a better qualified engineer has reported as unnecessary. Nor would I have been able to write about his approving additional payments to his contractor without the approval of the client or the errors he made in approving construction mistakes—that the client also had to pay for. While it will take some time for stories such as this to make their way to newspapers and other old-style media, blogs can move faster with the times.

That felt good. I am going to enjoy blogging even more in the New Year.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

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