A libel lawsuit launched by the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, against an outspoken political commentator and strategist has been dismissed in an Ontario court.
Bernier had tried to prosecute Warren Kinsella for comments describing the PPC leader as racist, misogynist and anti-Semitic ahead of the 2019 federal election.
Bernier says these descriptions damaged his reputation and subjected him to public scandal and embarrassment.
In a decision released Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Calum MacLeod dismissed the lawsuit because he said Kinsella would likely have been able to provide a valid defense for his critics.
The judge also said that any harm done to Bernier did not outweigh the importance of free speech when discussing politicians and political parties in the public sphere.
In an interview with CBC News in October, Bernier said he was confident his case would succeed.
“Kinsella said that I said I was a racist and a Nazi and that I was suing him for discrimination. And I will have that decision and I can tell you that it will be positive in our favor,” he said. October 6. .
Kinsella’s consulting firm, Daisy Group, has been hired to “search and destroy” PPC in the run-up to the 2019 federal election, according to documents seen by CBC News.
A source with knowledge of the project said Kinsella was hired by the Conservative Party of Canada, which wanted to discredit the PPC before it was first elected as a registered party. Kinsella has not confirmed any direct involvement with the Tories and instead says he was hired by CCP supporters.
The PPC failed to win a seat in the 2019 election, garnering 1.6% of the national vote. The party also failed to win a seat in the 2021 election, although its share of the popular vote rose to 4.9%.
In his 19-page written decision, Justice MacLeod said Kinsella’s comments about Bernier and the PPC on social media, in blog posts and on his personal website did not meet the high threshold required for be characterized as defamation of a political leader.
Kinsella accused Bernier and the PPC of promoting racism, anti-Semitism and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. He also compared Bernier to then-US President Donald Trump and David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan.
MacLeod admitted Kinsella used distasteful and extreme language, but ultimately found the criticisms to be valid and based on fact.
“Mr. Kinsella was basing his comments on the actual positions taken by Mr. Bernier,” MacLeod wrote.
MacLeod also noted that Bernier and the PPC were widely criticized in Canadian political discourse during the 2019 election.
“The widespread characterization of Mr. Bernier and the PPC as racist and xenophobic or at least as an accomplice to those elements of the political spectrum was commonplace in the media. Comparisons with Donald Trump, [pro-Brexit politician] Nigel Farage or [far-right French politician] Marine LePen were prevalent, ”MacLeod wrote.
“Mr. Kinsella may have approached his task with particularly caustic enthusiasm, but, at worst, Mr. Kinsella’s messages can be seen as a drop of vitriol in a sea of criticism.”