Taseko Mines Limited v Western Canada Wilderness Committee 2017 BCCA

A defamation action by a mining company against an environmental organization over five internet articles was dismissed after trial, with special costs for a substantial portion of the proceeding.

The articles were critical of a mining proposal, saying it was “crazy” and saying it would turn a lake into “a dump site for toxic tailings”. After the action was commenced, the defendant publicly described the lawsuit as a “SLAPP”, and the plaintiff amended to claim that was also defamatory.

The trial judge held most of the publications complained of were not defamatory, and all of them were fair comment. He noted “The reasonable and ordinary member of the public is neither a sheep nor a parrot”.

The judge was critical of the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages, describing it as an economic threat and a claim which arises only in exceptional circumstances. He awarded special costs (similar to substantial indemnity costs) from the time it was unreasonable to continue pursuing punitive damages, which he determined was the date a Federal Environmental Assessment concluded the proposal should be rejected for unacceptable risk – substantially vindicating the concerns raised by the Wilderness Committee.

The video of the court of appeal argument can be viewed here: https://www1.webcastcanada.ca/court/