Wilson v Canwest Publishing Inc – Publications Canwest Inc 2018 BCCA 441

The respondent, Charles Blair Wilson, was elected as a Member of Parliament for the riding of West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country in January 2006. He was appointed as the National Revenue Critic for the Liberal Party opposition in early October 2007.

On October 28, 2007, the Province newspaper published an article about Mr. Wilson that contained allegations of unpaid debts, improper campaign spending and unsuccessful business ventures (the “Article”). It created a firestorm of controversy, and Mr. Wilson resigned from the Liberal Party caucus on the following day.

After a lengthy trial, the trial judge dismissed the debt claim against the Wilsons, allowed part of Mr. Wilson’s defamation claim against the appellants, allowed a claim of harassment under s. 114(2) of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, S.B.C. 2004, c. 2 against the estate of Mr. Lougheed (who passed away mid-trial) and allowed a defamation claim against one of the other parties.

The appellants appeal the judge’s order awarding damages against them for defamation, and Mr. Wilson cross appeals in respect of two aspects of the judge’s ruling on his defamation claim in favour of the appellants.

The trial judge had rejected a defence of responsible communication over a portion of article that was in error, finding that reporter was otherwise diligent and responsible in handling the article.

The Court of Appeal held the analysis of responsibility must be an “overall” approach, and held the judge erred by isolating one portion for separate treatment. Judgment overturned and plaintiff’s claim dismissed with costs.