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Letter: Defamatory libel offence still useful

|Written By Eric Cunningham

However well intentioned, Alan Shanoff’s call for the abolition of defamatory libel from the Criminal Code (see “Time to abolish outdated defamatory libel offence,” Feb. 11) is ill advised.

It does not matter that the provision is rarely used. Our laws regarding treason are rarely used but serve an important purpose.

Defamatory libel has nothing to do with the concept of fair comment. Rather, the offence can be equated to the communications equivalent of a vicious drive-by shooting. Invariably, the interest is to malign an innocent person.

Shanoff’s reference to the possibility of prosecutorial and judicial abuse of criminal defamatory libel would be valid if there was any historic case law to support it. I doubt that there is.

The same Charter of Rights and Freedoms that affords citizens freedom of speech should provide the same level of protection for a person’s reputation. Surely, with the civil courts overcrowded, the remedy for those rare bona fide defamatory libel cases must not be a civil lawsuit.

The anonymity of technology and the Internet facilitates cyber bullying. Try to get Google to remove something odious or egregious. It is expensive and almost impossible to achieve without the services of a lawyer.

Recent successful prosecutions in Ontario have been purposeful. The courts quite properly have condemned the behaviour of those few people convicted of defamatory libel.

For most of us, our reputation is the most important thing we have. The rare application of the defamatory libel provision of the Criminal Code has served us well.

[em]Eric Cunningham

Former MPP for

Wentworth North, 1975-84

Burlington, Ont.[/em]

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