This book, by Jeremy S. Williams, is a bit outdated (it’s from 1988). A high-profile Toronto libel attorney is ostensibly writing a new volume on defamation law (sequel to his previous book on the topic, which I have covered).

Nonetheless, some useful points from The Law of Libel and Slander in Canada are as follows:

  • A defamatory statement is one which has a tendency to injure the reputation of the person to whom it refers; which tends, that is to say, to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally; in particular, to cause him to be regarded with feelings of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear, dislike, or disesteem. [p. 6; from Salmond on Torts, 1981]

  • Where the allegedly defamatory statement is to the effect that the plaintiff has committed a criminal offence, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff committed the crime. It will not suffice for the defendant to adduce proof of conviction; there must be proof of commission.

    The wisdom of this rule may well be questioned…. However, it should be noted that this rule is supported by English decisions. It may be that a Canadian court would recognize proof of conviction to be the best evidence of commission of the offence. [8]

  • [T]o state that other members of society “heartily detest” the plaintiff would probably cause his reputation to suffer. [10]

  • The mere inclusion of an article in a series may be libellous. For example, a weekly publication may print a series of articles exposing chicanery and dishonesty. The inclusion of an article about any individual in this series may lead readers to draw the inference that he indulges in such conduct. [18]

  • What is the difference between libel and slander? It is not strictly true that libel is written and slander is spoken (or, presumably, uttered in sign language).

    • An action for a libel may be brought on words written, when the words, if spoken, would not sustain it.

      Thus, the distinction between written and spoken defamatory comments was important. However, the distinction between written and spoken defamatory comments is not the only test for determining whether words are libellous or slanderous.

      It is generally said that libellous comments are those which may be observed and are published in a permanent form. There must be a publication which may be perceived by the sense of sight and which is permanent. Both elements must exist before the publication will be libellous. Slanderous comments are all those which do not amount to libel. [45]

    • Any comment communicated in a form which is permanent and visible to the eye is libel. Any communication which is temporary and only audible is slander. Therefore, publications in books and newspapers are libels and those in spoken words are merely slander…. [P]ublications which are permanent but only audible are difficult to characterize. Similarly, representations which are visible but not permanent are hard to categorize. [49]

  • The plaintiff must set out the libellous and slanderous words of which he complaints. The plaintiff must specify precisely what these statements were. [55]

  • Malice may be one of various states of mind. It may be spite, ill will, or a desire to do harm for its own sake. There is a general presumption in favour of the absence of malice….The malice may be indicated by the words of the statement or it may be found in the surrounding circumstances. [88]

See also: How to quote somebody else’s work without infringing copyright in Canada.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.10.15 14:16. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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