The BC Court of Appeal has ordered well-known
anti-fish farm activist Don Staniford to pay $75,000 in
damages because the mock cigarette packages he had made
criticizing Norwegian-owned fish farm companies lacked footnotes or
other appropriate citations. The court also granted a permanent
injunction muzzling Staniford's attacks on the fish
farms: Mainstream Canada v. Staniford, 2013 BCCA
According to the court, the plaintiff, Mainstream, owns 27
salmon farm sites on the coasts of Vancouver Island, making it the
second largest producer of farmed salmon in British Columbia.
It is a division of EWOS Canada Ltd., an indirect wholly owned
subsidiary of a Norwegian company. (The other two largest
producers of farmed salmon in British Columbia also have ties to
Staniford has dedicated himself to eradicating salmon farming,
e.g. through the Global Alliance Against Industrial
Aquaculture. He received a Master of Science degree in
1993, with his thesis topic being the environmental impact of
shellfish farming. He has been working with environmental
organizations over the past 15 years.
Mainstream sought general and punitive damages for allegedly
defamatory comments made by the respondent in various publications,
as well as a permanent injunction restraining him from publishing
similar words and images in the future. The trial judge found the
defence of fair comment applied to Staniford's comments,
because a determined reader could have located the facts upon which
his comments were based.
According to the Court of Appeal, that was not enough, because
some of his publications (such as the mock cigarette ads) did
not clearly reference the other documents that contained the facts
upon which his comments were based.
The court was clearly displeased with Mr. Staniford's
exaggerations. The packages included words such as
"Salmon Farming is Poison", "Salmon Farming is
Toxic", "Salmon Farming Kills", "Salmon Farms
are Cancer", and "Salmon Farming Seriously Damages
Health". However, Staniford admitted he did not know
whether farmed salmon sold by Mainstream in British Columbia was
toxic to humans and was not aware of any research showing
that a person had developed cancer as a result of consuming farmed
salmon. Instead, Staniford was relying on research
that concentrations of organochlorine contaminants were
significantly higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon.
The court therefore granted the fish farm company a permanent
injunction, and awarded it general damages of $25,000 and
punitive damages of $50,000. Mr. Staniford was further punished by
requiring him to pay most of the fish farm company's legal
This case does not qualify as a SLAPP, because the court found
that Mr. Staniford's comments were actually defamatory.
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