Frank pities the honourable judge seized with Ezra Levant v. Robert P.J. Day, the tedious Twitter hair-puller cum defamation quagmire that is the little pisher’s latest gift to Canadian jurisprudence.
Readers will recall Rebel Media’s Indiegogo crowdfunder for Fort McMurray fire victims this spring, which raked in $162K (er, more or less) for the Red Cross.
This selfless philanthropy was lost on Ezra’s legions of social media haters, who accused him of using the disaster as yet another branding opportunity for Rebel and even, thanks to Indiegogo service fees and other complications, reducing the amount of aid that would otherwise have reached the needy by inserting Rebel between the Red Cross and donors instead of just encouraging them to give directly to the charity in the first place.
Day, who tweets as Canadian Cynic, was particularly effective at getting under Ezra’s pasty skin, and the noted free speech crusader, ably represented by grudge-caddies Irvin Schein and Mark “Super” Freake (Minden Gross LLP) slapped him with a lawsuit in June for $70,000, plus $25,000 in exemplary and punitive damages.
“In their natural and ordinary meaning, the Defendant’s words meant and were understood to mean that the Plaintiff was fraudulently diverting money from the disaster victims for his own personal gain, misleading the public, cheating donors, and diverting funds away from victims in Fort McMurray,” pleads the pisherman.
And malice, your honour! Malice a-go-go!
“The Defendant’s style is extremely profane and malicious, especially towards the Plaintiff and the staff [sic] at Rebel News. The Defendant has published more than 1,000 comments about the Plaintiff and his staff, including:
May 17 2016 2:30 a.m. It would probably save time if I set up a hot key for ‘Ezra Levant is an asshole’ on my keyboard.”
Day, author of a get-a-friggin’ life 72,000+ tweets, probably has 1,000 on any given subject, but Ez seems convinced:
“He is blinded by his long-standing malice towards the Plaintiff…the Defendant’s story was not based in fact and was written with malice in an effort to vilify the Plaintiff personally…In light of the Defendant’s high-handed and malicious attacks against the Plaintiff, as well as his unrelenting efforts to discourage donations to the Fundraising Website, the Plaintiff pleads that punitive damages ought to be ordered against the Defendant…”
One gets the idea.
Day, with legalist Peter Burnet as his cornerman, “admits the accuracy of his tweets as alleged in the Statement of Claim but denies generally the Plaintiff’s many descriptions of their intents and/or that they were malicious, dishonest or ungrounded factually…The Defendant has never met the Plaintiff and there is no basis for any personal animosity beyond their different political views.”
Day’s asking for a dismissal plus his costs, in part because Levant never issued a Notice of Libel before going full legal on his ass – a potentially fatal omission if, as Day argues, his tweets comprise a “broadcast” for the purposes of the Libel and Slander Act.
Levant, in his latest pleadings, argues Day’s tweets weren’t broadcasts, and if they were, his own tweets of complaint and demands for retraction comprised a Notice of Libel – even though he had long ago blocked Day on Twitter. Again, Frank condolences to the poor jurist who gets stuck with this pissant online whingefest.
As to Ezra’s claim that his “reputation has been seriously damaged and he has suffered distress and embarrassment,” Day notes the frequency with which the delicate soul’s utterances have landed him in court:
“The Plaintiff is well-known across Canada for basing his actions and public reputation on controversies and polemically heated adversarial exchanges, which he seeks out regularly. His involvement in legal defamation actions and disputes is frequent and notorious and constitutes an important component of the public persona he seeks to project.”
Speaking of which, Ezra’s still trying to wriggle off the hook of the 2014 Khurrum Awan defamation judgment, in which the little nudnik got stung for $153,000 in damages and costs for infelicitous suggestions the legalist-o’-colour was a liar, anti-Semite and probably with the terrorists. If he loses this appeal, he risks eating another $15,000 of Awan’s costs.
But the stakes are so much higher. In his submissions, heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal in May, Ezra urged the learned justices not only to think of his own humble hide, but of Free Speech itself:
“5. The judgment will have the effect of chilling discussion on important matters of public interest, including political speech, and undermine the important principles governing the defence of fair comment, set out by the Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) in WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson (“WIC Radio”). Defamation law cannot be used to intimidate public opinion or restrict freedom of thought.
“6. In reviewing the Judgment below, it is critical for this Honourable Court to heed the warning of the SCC in WIC Radio, that courts should avoid ‘an overly solicitous regard for personal reputation’ to avoid the risk of chilling ‘freewheeling debate on matters of public interest’:
When controversies erupt, statements of claim often follow as night follows day, not only in serious claims (as here) but in actions launched simply for the purpose of intimidation. Of course ‘chilling’ false and defamatory speech is not a bad thing in itself, but chilling debate on matters of legitimate public interest raises issues of inappropriate censorship and self-censorship. Public controversy can be a rough trade, and the law needs to accommodate its requirements.”