On September 28, 2012, Madam Justice Adair dismissed an action
in defamation by Mainstream Canada against the defendant Don
Staniford carrying on business as The Global Alliance Against
The plaintiff, Mainstream, is the second largest producer of
farmed salmon in British Columbia. On January 31, 2011, the
defendant Don Staniford, an environmental activist, launched a
public campaign attacking the salmon farming industry. The campaign
was centred on a press release prepared by Staniford which included
four mock cigarette packages bearing warnings such as "Salmon
Farming Kills," and "Salmon Farming Seriously Damages
Health." This press release was sent to media outlets and
posted on a website, where more examples of mock cigarette packages
were displayed bearing similar messages.
Mainstream alleged that the press release was targeted at them
and that it attempted to associate Mainstream, its business, and
the consumption of farmed salmon with tobacco companies, tobacco
products, and the detrimental health consequences of tobacco use.
Staniford defended the action, and argued that the statements were
a fair comment or opinion on matters of public interest. Mainstream
countered by arguing that the defence of fair comment was defeated
by Staniford's malice when he made the statements.
The Court concluded that Mainstream had proved the essential
elements of defamation. First, the statements in question were
defamatory since they stated that salmon-farming companies killed,
sold products that were toxic, poisonous and harmful to human
health, and were dishonest by association with big tobacco
companies, who were held in low repute in the community. Second,
the statements referred specifically to Mainstream, given that
Staniford had issued the press release in Vancouver, had a history
of targeting Mainstream specifically and had mentioned Mainstream
by name in a blog posting made the day after the press release.
Third, Staniford did not dispute that the statements had been
The Court accepted Staniford's fair comment defence and held
that although the statements contained assertions of fact, a
reasonable reader would conclude that they were value judgments
based on facts. The Court further held that Mr. Staniford honestly
expressed his opinions and that they were therefore fair
On the issue of malice, the Court held that Staniford was
contemptuous and hostile toward Mainstream and that his opinions
were motivated in part by malice. However, the Court rejected the
contention that malice was the dominant motivation behind the
statements due to Staniford's sincere desire to end
aquaculture, which it concluded was the dominant motivation behind
his statements. Finally, the Court noted that to defeat the defence
of fair comment in the circumstances was impossible given that
Staniford was doing the very thing that fair comment was designed
to protect – the interest of free speech.
To view the Reasons for Judgment in this case, click here.
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