Court dismisses anti-aquaculture activist’s appeal

The trial judge found that the activist’s comments were defamatory and were motivated by express malice toward Mainstream

The Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the appeal of an activist found liable for defamation by the BC Court of Appeal.

The order to pay damages and stop publishing defamatory materials about Cermaq Canada will stand.

“We are glad to see today’s ruling, which vindicates Cermaq’s reputation as a producer of nutritious salmon. We welcome public debate, but it should be based on facts, and critics should be held accountable for their public commentary,” Laurie Jensen, Cermaq Canada’s Communications and Corporate Sustainability Manager, said in a press release.

Cermaq Canada (which changed names from Mainstream Canada in November) originally took anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford to court from Jan. 16 to Feb. 10, 2012. The legal action was in response to a campaign by Staniford against the company and its employees.

“It affected our employees, their families, our suppliers and our partners. The heart of our company is our employees, and we need to stand up for them and defend them against malicious and defamatory attacks, and against cyberbullying,” Jensen said.

In the original trial, the judge concluded that Mainstream was a responsible corporate citizen, pointing out that “They are conscious of the need to operate the business in a manner consistent with producing a product that is safe to consume and contributes to a healthy and nutritious diet.”

The trial judge found that the activist’s comments were defamatory and were motivated by express malice toward Mainstream.  She described the language in his publications as “extreme, inflammatory, sensationalized, extravagant and violent,” but accepted his fair comment defense. On July 22, 2013, The BC Court of Appeal overturned the trial judge and ruled that Staniford was not eligible for protection under a fair comment defence because he failed to adequately provide facts to back up his claims.  The appeal judgment also awarded Mainstream Canada special costs because of Staniford’s “reprehensible conduct” during the litigation.

“We are proud to produce top-quality, healthy fish for our customers, and we are glad this issue is finally concluded,” Jensen said.

Cermaq Canada farms Atlantic salmon in 27 sites on the west and east coasts of Vancouver Island, operates four land-based hatcheries and two processing plants.