The defamation lawsuit, launched by a former British Columbia (BC) school board trustee against the former BC Teachers’ Federation president, considered whether the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president had caused reputational harm by describing the board trustee’s comments about transgender and queer people as discriminatory and hateful.
In October 2022, The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) and the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in the case, which concerned British Columbia’s Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA) established in 2019 to prevent people in positions of power from misusing the legal system to silence their critics through strategic litigation against public participation (the “SLAPP suits”).
The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the defamation suit. The decision contains several positive results for the broader 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The Court reinforced that section 15 Charter equality values are engaged by counter speech defending vulnerable or marginalized groups.
In addition to confirming that the social context of trans individuals was a key consideration in the public interest weighing exercise in the anti-SLAPP motion, the Court also found that individuals speaking out against hateful speech can rely on the fair comment defence to defamation.
Grace McDonell represented The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity and Community-Based Research Centre as co-counsel in their intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada.