May 8, 2017
École musulmane de Montréal c Benhabib 2017 QCCA 775
Defendant is a well-known opponent of fundamentalism and political Islam. The plaintif is an organization which operates a denominational school. In an interview on a popular radio show the defendant made numerous statements in which she namely compared the school to a military camp in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that the suras the students were being taught were extremely violent, misogynistic and sexist and implied that the school was creating fundamentalist militants who may commit honor crimes against their sister.
The radio program in which the defendant participated is a forum for the expression of opinions and criticisms on matters of public interest. The subject of the interview was religious education in Quebec schools, freedom of religion, the right of women and children to equality, and the wearing of the Islamic veil. These are subjects of public interest.
The defendant’s words are at the heart of the raison d’être of freedom of expression, namely to encourage active participation in debates on matters of public interest that have repercussions. on decision-making of social and political interest.
The QCCA granted Djemila Benhabib’s Motion to Dismiss the Appeal, on the basis that the appeal was devoid of any merit.
In so doing, the Court of Appeal confirmed the Superior Court’s ruling that Ms. Benhabib did not commit a fault in criticizing the school’s teaching methods nor the values of Islam, and that no defamation occurred as a result of these criticisms.
This is the first defamation case in Canada that deals with harsh critics of Islam and Islamic school teaching methods.