Kovlaske v. IWA-Canada, Local 1-217, Kobayashi, and Parker

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October 19, 1999

Ad IDEM member Dan Burnett reports that he acted recently for an Indo Canadian newspaper (circulation 10,000) which was in court over quotes it ran from some union officials during a strike at a sawmill employing mostly Indo Canadians. The officials said the general manager of the mill was a racist, attributing a racist quote to him. The court found the statements were defamatory, and found the union officials had malice because they knew they were false. They were ordered to pay a total of $150,000. The newspaper which ran the defamatory quotes, however, succeeded with its defence of qualified privilege. The reasoning wasn't very expansive, but the essense of it was as follows (Dhillon was the reporter and Puri was the newspaper editor): "[43] Mr. Dhillon accurately reported the statements made to him and I find that both he and Mr. Puri made reasonable efforts to contact Mr. Kovlaske before

publication. Both had an honest belief in the truth of the statements and Mr. Puri had no knowledge of the falsity of the Hindu comment until some two years

after the action was commenced.

[44] The Link is devoted to matters of interest to the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver. The majority of the workers at Mainland are Indo-Canadian. I find that there is a common legitimate interest with the readers of The Link newspaper in reporting the allegations of racism against Indo-Canadians."

The Moises decision was before the court, and Dan Burnett argued for the privilege on the strength of it, despite the limitations it imposes in British Columbia on the expansion of qualified privilege there.

See Kovlaske v. IWA-Canada, Local 1-217, Kobayashi, and Parker

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