Blogger Ezra Levant ordered to pay additional $32,500 for libel

Blogger and free speech activist Ezra Levant has been ordered by the Ontario Superior Court to pay an additional $32,500 in libel to human rights lawyer Giacomo Vigna.

Last November, Levant was ordered to pay $25,000 to Vigna for libel, citing his “reckless indifference” to the truth while writing blog posts about the Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer.

Levant accused Vigna of lying to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, tampering with evidence, and suggested he’d been fired, the National Post reports. Justice Robert Smith ruled that Levant “spoke in reckless disregard of the truth and for an ulterior purpose of denormalizing the Human Rights Commission across Canada which makes his statements malicious in that sense.”

In the first decision (published November 18, 2010), which you can read here, the judge dismissed
some of the claims against Levant, but found that he defamed Vigna six
times between March and May 2008. That Levant failed to check facts or
seek Vigna’s side of the story meant that he could not claim the new
libel defence, introduced by the Supreme Court late last year, of
responsible communication on a matter of public interest.

In his newest decision, dated January 26, Justice Smith writes:

“Levant actively published the defamatory statements about Vigna as part of his campaign to denormalize the Human Rights Commissions, which was for another purpose and as a result, this amounted to malicious conduct on Levant’s parts. I find that costs should be assessed on a substantial indemnity basis because Levant published defamatory statements about Vigna for an ulterior purpose and his actions were malicious…”

The judge also notes that the “legal issues involved in a defamation action are more complex than the typical lawsuit.” He explains:

“A libel trial involves findings of defamation as well as consideration of the defences potentially applicable to each of the publications, including justification, fair comment, and whether the publications are protected by the defence of communication on a matter of public interest.”

The Court also concluded that Levant was responsible for some of the complexity of the trial and larger-than-usual legal costs because 23 of his posts were under scrutiny. Vigna told the court that he sought more money in order to pay his lawyers’ fees, which totalled more than $26,000.

The two decisions combined require Levant to pay Vigna $57,500, a direct result of his blog posts. The National Post reports that Levant plans to seek an appeal.