Supreme Court rules in favour of B.C. radio host

B.C. talk radio host Rafe Mair has won his long-running battle against Kari Simpson, as the Supreme Court of Canada brought down its ruling today.  

Canada’s high court decided to set aside last year’s judgment of the Court of Appeal and restore the original trial judgment in Mair’s (and WIC Radio Ltd.) favour.

In a 1999 broadcast, Mair compared Simpson, who is an activist against teaching gay lifestyles in schools, to Hitler, the Klu KLux Klan and skinheads. Simpson argued that broadcast was defamatory and ultimately took legal action.  

The trial judge dismissed the action based on the defence of fair comment.  However, the Court of Appeal later reversed the trial judgment, finding that the defence of fair comment was not available because “there was no evidentiary foundation for the imputation that S[impson] would condone violence against gay people, nor had M[air] testified that he had an honest belief S[impson] would condone violence.”

It was then taken to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Today’s ruling reads, in part:

The trial judgment dismissing the action should be restored.  M[air]’s expression of opinion, however exaggerated, was protected by the law.  M[air]’s editorial was defamatory, but the trial judge was correct to allow the defence of fair comment.

“We may not always agree with each other,” said the Association of Electronic Journalists, RTNDA Canada, president Cal
Johnstone, in a statement after the ruling. “But talk radio has a well established role in generating public debate on controversial issues. To restrict that debate would have had far-reaching implications for our democratic society.”

The full text of the court’s judgement can be read here (also includes the text of Mair’s original radio editorial).