Defamation law continues to be in the news, with actions
recently being threatened or commenced against municipal and
provincial politicians in Ontario. The rise of the internet as a
medium through which anyone can (and many do) easily convey their
views to the world means that defamation law will likely continue
to be in the news. The internet is constantly offering new
ways for people to communicate their views to the world and, as it
evolves, Canadian courts will continually be addressing novel
One interesting question is whether a comment left on a blog
post can be defamatory. In Baglow v
Smith,1 the defendant wrote a comment on the
plaintiff's blog post suggesting that he was "one of the
Taliban's more vocal supporters". On a motion for summary
judgment brought by the defendants, the motion judge found that a
comment on a blog post can be a "publication" for the
purpose of a defamation claim. However, the motion judge
found that such a comment could not be defamatory because a comment
on a blog post would not lower the plaintiff's
reputation. The judge granted summary judgment dismissing the
On appeal, the Court of Appeal for Ontario held that, although
comments sections are known for lively debate where a "broad
range of tolerance for hyperbolic
language"27 exists, the possibility that
the words would tend to lower the plaintiff's reputation could
not be precluded. The Court of Appeal held that whether the
words were defamatory should be decided on the basis of witness and
expert evidence,3 and ordered the matter to proceed to
trial. The trial has not yet been heard.
The decision in Baglow v Smith therefore seems to stand
for the proposition – though not yet confirmed by a Canadian
court following a trial – that a comment on a blog post can
be defamatory in certain circumstances.
Bloggers and commenters should therefore be cautious when
posting material on the internet, even in the often hyperbolic
comments sections of blogs. Conversely, if you or your
business has been defamed in the comments section of a blog, you
may have a claim against its author.
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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