The cost of silence


Editorial by Carmen Fabio, editor of Your Local Journal

While it’s understood that freedom of speech is not an absolute, it remains a fundamental freedom that deserves to be pursued and protected, especially in situations where its attempted suppression is through financial intimidation.


This week’s Quebec court ruling that awarded $300,000 to a woman who was being sued for defamation for questioning the care her ailing mother was receiving at a seniors’ facility in Saint Lambert was hailed by her lawyer as a victory for freedom of speech and expression. The judge in the case ruled the plaintiff’s initial lawsuit was abusive and its sole purpose was to silence and intimidate.


Closer to home, the Town of Kirkland was recently sent a letter from the Ministère des affaires municipales et de l’occupation du territoire (MAMROT) following its 2012 defamation suit against a resident, paid for with public funds. The town lost its initialsuit and subsequent appeal.


Though the appeal court declined to classify the case as a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), human rights attorney Julius Grey referred to a passage in the judgement stating, “… the powerful cannot force the less powerful to stay silent.”


While MAMROT pointed out there is an opportunity to strengthen the bond of trust between the public and elected officials if the slighted councillor were to pay his own legal fees, the town maintains its position of having acted on legal counsel with no current intention of reimbursing the public coffers.And while the amount spent has not yet been made public, it can likely be deduced that it wasn’t worth the cost in the end.



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