Photo of Don Staniford from his website.

Court orders activist to pay $75,000 to salmon farming company

The B.C. Court of Appeal rules in favour of Campbell River-based aquaculture firm

Mainstream Canada has been awarded a $75,000 judgement against a salmon farm activist who intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Monday, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision and ruled that statements made by activist Don Staniford were defamatory and not fair comment. In addition, Justice David Tysoe penalized the activist for his misconduct during trial.

“The appropriate way to punish Mr. Staniford for his reprehensible conduct in the litigation is to award Mainstream special costs against him,” wrote Justice David Tysoe.

The ruling in favour of Mainstream provides general damages of $25,000 and punitive damages of $50,000. The company had asked for $125,000, but was otherwise pleased by the verdict.

“The soul of a company is its employees, and we need to stand up for them and defend them against malicious and defamatory attacks, and against cyberbullying,” said Laurie Jensen, Mainstream’s manager of communications and corporate sustainability. “We are pleased that the court recognizes that especially in the age of the Internet, public comments need to be backed up by facts.”

In addition to the financial penalty, the court granted Mainstream’s request for a permanent injunction against Staniford, preventing him from writing or publishing anything defamatory about the company.

Mainstream had sued Staniford regarding his anti-salmon farming campaign “Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture.” In it, he compared eating farmed salmon with smoking cigarettes and claimed that “salmon farming kills.”

However, Justice Tysoe ruled, “The defamatory publications did not identify by a clear reference the facts upon which the comments were based that were contained in other documents.”

In an exchange of e-mails with the Mirror, Staniford said he is presently in Ireland and plans to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Canada. He didn’t say when he intends to return to B.C.

He also offered this reaction to Monday’s decision on his blog:

“This shocking judgment will have a chilling effect on all campaigners speaking out on environmental and social justice issues.”