Lawsuits against Bloggers in Canada

Up in Canada, frequent litigant Richard Warman has sued five bloggers, including Kathy Shaidle, not just for posting what he claims are libelous remarks about him, but for letting others comment about him on their blogs, and for linking to other criticisms of him. Warman is a former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and, as a private litigant, still the driving force in much of its work.

Mark Steyn has said,

It’s not possible to take a stand against the Canadian Human Rights Commission without also talking a stand against Richard Warman. He has been the plaintiff on half the Section 13 cases in its entire history and on all the Section 13 cases since 2002.

“There are 30 million Canadians yet only one of them uses this law, over and over and over again, which tells you how necessary it is to keeping the Queen’s peace. Section 13 is, in effect, Warman’s Law and the CHRC is Warman’s personal inquisition and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is Warman’s very own kangaroo court.”

How does Warman work? Here’s an example:

His very job with the misnamed “human rights” commission was an ongoing series of injustices.

So you’d expect his work to receive criticism.

And it did. Paul Fromm, a free-speech activist and founder of Canadians Associated for Free Expression — a group defending the worst “hate sites,” and thus said to “have links” with them (how deep those ties are I do not know; the matter irrelevant for my purposes, anyway) — has repeatedly called Warman an “enemy of free speech.” And similar things.

And so what did Warman do?

He sued.

For libel.

And won.

And was awarded $30,000.

Why? The judge ruled that a government official working from duly enacted government policy cannot be an enemy of free speech. That’s just unthinkable!

Yes, in Canada you may not speak the truth about free speech to its official enemies. In Canada, the reason why we must defend even the most vile speech and writing becomes clear: because suppression of it eventually leads to the inability to criticize government.

You know you’ve lost your freedom when you cannot call a censor a censor.

Warman apparently began by going after neo-Nazi Internet sites. And that second link seems to suggest that his only critics are “far right” people who are antisemitic.

So what exactly did these bloggers say that got Warman upset?

Warman’s lawsuit (you can read it here (PDF)) more or less boils down to one main accusation against him. It’s been alleged that Warman, writing under a false identity, authored and posted some obscene and racist comments about Senator Anne Cools. Warman denies it. If Warman’s denial is to be believed, then he has a clear-cut case: people have said false things about him, and therefore defamed him. However, if he did write the comments, then this could prove very interesting.

I’m no lawyer, so I’m not sure where the burden of proof will fall; if Warman need prove that he didn’t wirite the comments, or if the defendants must prove he did. If it can be proven, then I think this whole case crumbles in a big way, and will impact the debate over Human Rights Commissions.
Does the mere filing of the suit prove Warman did not write the comments? Not necessarily. If he can win a judgment then no one wil dare raise the accusation again, and it all goes away – maybe that’s the point.
I’m not going to sit here and say Warman wrote the comments, but the accusation didn’t emerge in a vacuum. For one, Warman has admitted (see here and here) to using pseudonyms to log on to racist and far-right websites. More to the point, though, the IP address associated with Warman’s “Lucy” persona matches with the IP address of whoever posted the Anne Cools comment (see here and here). That still doesn’t prove with 100% certainly that Warman wrote the comments, but it all adds up to reasonable suspicion.
It’s worth noting – and Warman’s defenders have repeatedly noted it – that the technology expert being cited is one Bernard Klatt. As noted at the link, it’s fair to call Mr. Klatt a racist and neo-Nazi. But again, just because a Nazi says two-plus-two-is-four doesn’t mean it’s not true. And a Nazi may be a Nazi, but a Nazi can still be a computer expert.
In short, this will be very interesting.
See also this article at the National Post. The issue of Warman’s role, and the investigatory techniques of the Human Rights Commission, are going to be highlighted in an upcoming trial: Warman v. Lemire. And its in the context of that trial that this whole current dispute arose, as Mark Steyn points out.