Chilling statement

Ontario Superior Court dismisses lawsuit against Together News Inc. 

An Ontario Superior Court justice dismissed a defamation lawsuit against B.C.-based Together News Inc. 

Three nurses associated with the anti-vaccine group Canadian Frontline Nurses filed the lawsuit on Dec. 13, 2021 against TNI which publishes and, and the publication’s editor William Horter. 

The lawsuit alleged that TNI defamed the nurses in a Sept. 11, 2021 article that described their anti-vaccine activism. 

The lawsuit also named the Canadian Nurses Association, in relation to a Sept. 9, 2021 article published on the professional body’s website. 

In a Dec. 23, 2022 judgement, Ontario Superior Court Justice Marie-Andrée Vermette wrote that the lawsuit should be dismissed under Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation.

The nurses “failed to establish that they have suffered sufficiently serious harm … which outweighs the public interest in protecting the expression in these publications,” Vermette said in the decision. 

Vermette added that both the TNI and CNA articles discussed “matters of public interest regarding public health that are of significant importance.” 

Ruling in favour of the nurses could have a “chilling effect” on both TNI and the CNA, and “deleterious effects on expression and public participation and the public interest in protecting that expression,” Vermette wrote. 

The lawsuit was “puzzling,” Vermette wrote, given that both the TNI and CNA articles contained information and opinions published widely elsewhere in Canada. 

The justice added that the decision to sue TNI — a small, regional publication — was “surprising.” Vermette wrote that there “appears to be some merit” to TNI’s argument that the nurses had targeted TNI instead of larger outlets that had published similar articles.