• Toronto, University of Toronto
  • February 16, 2010 - 18:30

Defending Against Libel and Contempt:
Supreme Court Cases and their Impact on Journalism
February 16, 2010, Toronto

Defending Against Libel and Contempt:

Supreme Court Cases and their Impact on Journalism



The ground has shifted for journalists at risk of libel and other lawsuits. The Supreme Court of Canada recently issued two landmark rulings offering a new protection for journalists: a ”public interest” defence against libel. And two upcoming decisions may go even further by extending journalists’ ability to protect the identity of their confidential sources without being in contempt of court.

CJF Forums welcome media lawyer Paul Schabas, leading defamation counsel Peter Downard and the head of CBC News’ Investigative Unit Harvey Cashore to examine the benefits and the risks of changing laws. The panel is moderated by Geoff Stevens.


Paul SchabasPaul Schabas is a partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto. His practice has a strong emphasis on media and defamation, constitutional and public law. Paul has been counsel on many important Charter cases in the Supreme Court of Canada dealing with freedom of expression, equality rights, judicial independence, fundamental justice, and search and seizure. Recently, he was lead counsel in the Grant v. Torstar case, in which he persuaded the Supreme Court to establish the “responsible communication in the public interest” defence. He is an elected Bencher (i.e.Director) of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which governs the legal profession in Ontario. He is the immediate past-President of the Canadian Media Lawyers Association and of Pro Bono Law Ontario, and is currently a Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Law Foundation of Ontario. He has published many articles and frequently speaks on media and Charter issues. Paul is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law where he teaches a course in Media and Defamation Law.

Harvey CashoreHarvey Cashore is a senior producer with CBC News and heads up the network's Investigative Unit. He started his investigative career in 1987 as a research associate on the best-selling biography Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition by John Sawatsky. In 1989, Harvey moved to CBC as a researcher with the Ottawa bureau of The Journal. He joined the fifth estate in 1991 and became a producer in 1995. Harvey has been involved in some of the country's biggest investigations, including the recent expose of retailer theft of winning lottery tickets. Harvey has won numerous awards throughout his career including the Canadian Association of Journalists' top investigative journalism award, the CBC's top documentary award, the Justice Department's Judicia Award for best legal reporting, and a Gemini award for best direction in an information programme. He is the author of the upcoming book The Truth Shows Up, the story of his 15-year odyssey tracking down the truth about Karlheinz Schreiber, Brian Mulroney and the Airbus story.

Peter DownardPeter Downard is senior litigation counsel and principal Toronto contact for Fasken Martineau defamation matters. Peter has extensive experience as defamation counsel in litigation at trial, in the Court of Appeal for Ontario, and in the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as in numerous mediations and advisory matters. He is a Lexpert leading practitioner in defamation; author of the legal text Libel (Butterworths, 2003), referred to as an authority on libel law in numerous court decisions; and author of Defamation in Halsbury’s Laws of Canada. Peter was also lead counsel to former Ontario Premier Mike Harris in the Ipperwash Inquiry, 2004-2006; lead trial counsel in John Doe v O’Dell, (2003), 230 D.L.R. (4th) 383 (Ont.S.C.J) , in which his client obtained the largest judgment on record against a Catholic Diocese for sexual abuse of a child; and has comprehensive experience in commercial litigation and alternative dispute resolution.


Geoff StevensGeoff Stevens teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. The author of four books on political subjects, he is a former Ottawa columnist for The Globe and Mail and a former managing editor of the Globe and Maclean's. He writes a weekly column on politics for the Waterloo Region Record and Guelph Mercury. He lives in Cambridge.

The media march off to court

The responsible communication defence: What's in it for journalists?
Libel law reform: be careful what you wish for
What exactly is responsible journalism?

The right to protect whistleblowers
Protecting confidential sources