SCC throws out libel case against B.C. talk show host
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, June 27, 2008 12:46PM EDT
A libel ruling against Rafe Mair, an outspoken B.C. talk show host, has been thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 1999, Mair was sued over remarks he made on the air about social activist Kari Simpson.
At the time, Simpson was involved in a campaign opposed to teaching students about gay lifestyles in the province's schools.
Mair compared Simpson to Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan and skinheads.
In response, Simpson sued Mair and WIC Radio, claiming that his remarks were defamatory.
The original trial judge dismissed the action against Mair, agreeing with his defence of fair comment. The judge said Mair wasn't liable because he held an honest belief in the views he expressed.
But, in a later decision, the British Columbia Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled in favour of Simpson. The court found that Mair and his employer at the time did not have an adequate defence.
In Friday's ruling, the SCC said the original trial judge was correct in allowing the fair comment defence.
"In order to defeat fair comment, malice must be the dominant motive for expressing an opinion," said the ruling. "There was no evidence of malice on the facts of this case."
The court also modified a key component of the fair comment defence that the person making the comment must honestly believe in it.
The court said that the test of honest belief is not to be based on whether the specific person holding the opinion believed it. Rather, the statement should be evaluated on the basis of whether any person might honestly hold the view based on the facts at issue.
Mair, speaking to CTV Newsnet on Friday, called the decision a "huge victory for the entire world of journalism."
Mair said he was "delighted" when he heard the decision earlier in the day.
"This went on nearly nine years but I was very, very happy (today)," said Mair.
He said he stands by what he said and he thinks "there's going to be some happiness in the gay community" following today's decision.