Paramount Restaurant Owner Awarded $2.5 Million in Defamation Case

Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

 

This week, the Ontario Superior Court awarded $2.5 million to the owner of Paramount Fine Foods after the restaurateur sued FreedomReport.ca and its owner for defamation. [1]

In 2017, the defendant posted several videos on his online platform FreedomReport.ca that made false accusations about Paramount restaurant and its owner. The defendant wrongfully accused Paramount of being a venue for terrorist discussion, claiming that the restaurant only admitted “Jihadists” and rapists and that the restaurant owner funded terrorists. [2]. The videos included an altered image of the plaintiff to appear as though he were splattered with blood. [3]

Justice Ferguson ruled that the defendant’s impugned expression met all three elements of the defamation test: (1) they were posted online and therefore reached thousands of people across the world; (2) they specifically targeted the plaintiff, and (3) the remarks that the plaintiff is a “terrorist” and “rapist” would tend to lower the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of a reasonable person. [4]

The court reiterated that the defendant’s statements “shared all the essential hallmarks and attributes of an expression that is not worthy of protection.” [5].

The defendant argued that his impugned statements were protected by the freedom of expression right under s.2(b) of the Charter. [6] However, the Charter does not apply to litigation between private parties and the courts have already taken the freedom of expression right into consideration when defining the law of defamation. [7]

The court clarified that even if the Charter did apply, it does not protect “violent and threatening expression”. [8] The court noted the defendant has a history of inciting violence against Muslims and has made several statements threatening the restaurant owner [9].

Justice Ferguson cited the Supreme Court in Keegstra while reiterating that hate speech runs contrary to freedom of expression because it silences those who are the targets of hateful remarks. [10]

 

This blog post was written by a CCLA summer law volunteer. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA.  

 

[1] Paramount v Kevin J Johnston, 2019 ONSC 2910 at para 92.

[2] Ibid at para 19.

[3] Ibid at para 20.

[4] Ibid at para 51.

[5] Ibid at para 53.

[6] Ibid at para 62.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid at para 63.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid at para 64.

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