This morning (9 February) on Day 19 of the ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ trial, Don Staniford’s lawyer David Sutherland begins the defendant’s ‘closing submissions’. Tomorrow (10 February) is Day 20 and the final day of this defamation trial presided over by Justice Elaine Adair in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. At stake is not just the global reputation of the plaintiff (Cermaq’s subsidiary Mainstream Canada) and the defendant (Don Staniford) but Canada’s entire justice system. This is not so much a trial about salmon farming in British Columbia as a trial about freedom of speech and global criticism of a highly controversial industry.
For more information read the blog ‘The Intention of Don Staniford’s Campaign’
And follow via Don Staniford's blogs - online here
Day 18 (8 February) saw lawyers representing the Norwegian Government-owned corporation Cermaq continue their flagrant abuse of the Canadian courts and attack on freedom of speech. Cermaq’s closing submissions, advanced by lawyer David Wotherspoon, called for damages in the region of $1 million and an immediate permanent injunction against Mr. Staniford speaking out against salmon farming.
It is ironic that the Norwegian Government (via its ownership in Cermaq) is now seeking to clamp down on free speech when in 2009 Norway's Nobel Peace Prize honoured the Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo. In retaliation, China banned imports of Norwegian farmed salmon leading to farmed fish "rotting in Chinese warehouses."
And just this week the Russian food safety authorities banned imports of Norwegian farmed salmon following the detection of E. coli and salmonella (read more via 'Russia Detects Harmful Bacteria in Norwegian Exports').
“Mr. Staniford by himself, his agents, servants or otherwise shall be restrained from publishing, or causing to be published, on the internet or by any other method or medium, any defamatory statement referring in any way to the plaintiff, whether by name, pseudonym, address, photograph or other means of identity,” stated Cermaq’s lawyer David Wotherspoon reading from the proposed text of an injunction.
“I see a problem using the term ‘any defamatory statement,” interjected Justice Elaine Adair. “I would be reluctant to pronounce on these terms – its unenforceable.”
“What we don’t want to do is craft an order which allows the defendant to say other things,” said Mr. Wotherspoon who wants an immediate injunction before Mr. Staniford is deported from Canada on 29 February.
“But the statements have to be illegal,” said Justice Adair. “If I am going to pronounce a permanent injunction then it needs to be precise.”
“As homework I can look at the language your ladyship,” said Mr. Wotherspoon.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Wotherspoon inflated the amount of damages demanded by Cermaq from $125,000 to the “high range” of recent awards for damages and he cited a case involving CBC which totalled $1.75 million. “It is hard to imagine a more serious and vicious defamation action,” argued Mr. Wotherspoon. “The conduct of the defendant warrants a very substantial award of damages.”
If Cermaq's lawyers ramp up their demands any further they will be vying for the role of Dr. Evil in the next Austin Powers movie.
The whole world is now watching as the surreal melodrama plays out in court (read ‘Going Viral: ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ Spreads Like ISA’). Late yesterday (8 February), a Swedish fly-fishing magazine (Fiske Journalen) published one of the ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ graphics and penned an article headlined “So Sue Me!”
It remains to be seen if Cermaq will be seeking an injunction against Fiske Journalen editor Mr. Falklind. However, Cermaq’s lawyers were quick to spell out the specific details of the immediate injunction sought against Mr. Staniford.
“Mr. Staniford is further prohibited from publishing or causing to be published any such statement about the plaintiff, anonymously, or in the name of another person,” continued Mr. Wotherspoon. “Mr. Staniford shall forthwith make all reasonable efforts to remove from the internet the entirety of any and all of the internet postings that he has published or caused to be published that contain the words and images sued upon as set out in the Plaintiff’s Amended Notice of Civil Claim (the ‘Defamatory Words’).”
If Cermaq were successful then the following statements would be outlawed:
Online in full via '‘Amended Notice of Civil Claim’
The following mock cigarette packets would also be outlawed and banned from publication on the internet or elsewhere - despite the fact that peer-reviewed science shows that salmon farms are killing wild baby salmon; despite the fact that Cermaq itself admits that Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) was spread from Norway to Chile; and despite the fact that workers have died all around the world on salmon farms, especially in Chile.
Mr. Wotherspoon also stated in his closing submissions:
“Mr. Staniford has advised that he intends to continue his campaigning in Norway after the conclusion of these proceedings. He has re-posted the publications sued upon outside the jurisdiction, in an effort to safe proof his campaign of attack from this Court’s Orders. His friends and supporters have widely republished the words and images sued upon, and appear to have adopted the continued dissemination of Mr. Staniford’s falsehoods as some form of cause célèbre, worthy of their attention and devotion. In those circumstances, a permanent injunction is not only appropriate – it is imperative for the protection of Mainstream’s reputation. The fact that this case addresses Internet defamation makes injunctive relief even more appropriate. Where defamation has been published on the internet under various guises, Courts have accepted that the ‘the wording of the injunction must be very broad’.”
Mr. Wotherspoon claimed that:
“Mr. Staniford’s publications are indeed ‘particularly malicious’ – he has suggested that Mainstream is knowingly selling a carcinogenic product. Mr. Staniford’s campaign was designed to undermine public confidence in Mainstream and its products, to force ‘Norway’ to ‘go home.”
“Companies resist disclosure of private information under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act all the time. Similarly companies take steps to safeguard confidential information. Doing so is in no way improper and it in no way suggests any sort of misconduct. If the test was as Mr. Staniford seems to suggest, then any company that sought to keep private or confidential information to itself would be as dishonest as the tobacco industry. That would be absurd.”
Readers can judge whether Cermaq behaved like the tobacco industry in wanting to keep damning data secret from the public – read Cermaq’s letter to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner in 2008 online here.
The letter claimed that disclosure of information would result in "undue financial loss" to Mainstream,” “damage Mainstream’s business” and referred to “the harm which such information in the wrong hands can do.”
For more details read ‘Farmed Salmon Confidential (Part 2): The Cover-Up’
While Cermaq have covered up damning information, Cermaq’s lawyer claimed in his closing submissions that:
“Mr. Staniford knowingly published falsehoods, withheld information that was contrary to his publications, and published his cigarette packs in order to ‘attack; the plaintiff and drive ‘Norway’ (i.e. Cermaq’s subsidiary Mainstream) out of British Columbia.”
In a blatant lie, Cermaq’s lawyer Mr. Wotherspoon claimed that:
“Mr. Staniford threw mud on the walls of Mainstream Canada during a protest in April 2011.”
In his oral evidence, Mr. Staniford testified that he did not throw mud (although he admitted he was involved in a 'Cut the Crap' protest in Campbell River).
Watch the ‘Cut the Crap’ protest in Campbell River in April 2011 – online here
Mr. Wotherspoon also claimed that it was Mr. Staniford not Cermaq or the BC Salmon Farmers Association who fail to tell the truth:
“Mr. Staniford is the one whose words stray from the truth, far from the truth. His words and images go far beyond anything that one could honestly find necessary to respond to the BCSFA campaign. Indeed, his response does not include science or facts, or provide a meaningful response, voicing his disagreement. It is simply invective. From this invective can be inferred malice.”
Mr. Wotherspoon claimed:
“Mr. Staniford has abandoned truth.”
And argued that:
“Mr. Staniford’s comparison of Mainstream and its products with tobacco manufacturers and cigarettes is clearly defamatory, as it implies Mainstream is knowingly producing carcinogenic products, and has lied to and deceived the public.”
Yet Mr. Wotherspoon admitted that Mr. Staniford did not name the Cermaq or Mainstream in any of the offending cigarette packs:
“Presumably, as an experienced libel litigant, Mr. Staniford attempted to avoid using the name of a single salmon farming company on the face of his cigarette packs to stymie any libel proceedings. A person with his experience is capable of employing enough points of similarity to inform the public of his true objective, while employing enough points of difference to hopefully confuse the courts.”
Mr. Wotherspoon claimed that:
“There can be no doubt that right thinking members of the community will reach the following conclusion from Mr. Staniford’s publications: farmed salmon is a toxic and poisonous product, unfit for human consumption, and that its producer, Mainstream, has manipulated, lied, and concealed this fact from the public.”
Mr. Wotherspoon also referred her ladyship, Justice Elaine Adair, to Paragraph 22 of the ‘Amended Notice of Civil Claim’ and to the “natural and ordinary meaning” of the ‘Defamatory Words’:
a) Mainstream’s business and products kill people;
b) Mainstream’s business and products make people sick;
c) Mainstream’s products are unsafe for human consumption;
d) Mainstream has actively misled, deceived, and lied to the public;
e) Mainstream is knowingly marketing a carcinogenic product that causes illness, death and harm;
f) Mainstream’s operations are a malignant cancer;
g) Mainstream’s products are toxic and poisonous
h) Mainstream’s business and products kill the environment*
i) Mainstream has engaged in illegal conduct;
j) Mainstream engages in corrupt and immoral behaviour.
* h) was withdrawn by Cermaq during the first week of trial
Cermaq’s lawyers concluded in their closing submissions that:
“Mr. Staniford’s publications undermine public health. He has manufactured a ‘food scare’ to accomplish his xenophobic objective of forcing Norway to ‘clear out’ of British Columbia.”
“By labelling Mainstream a lying producer of carcinogenic products, he has attempted to accomplish his objective of ‘shutting down’ an industry through fear-mongering and the creation of a food scare.”
And finally, Cermaq’s lawyers ended with the following:
“This Court ought to strongly condemn these tactics, and ensure that Mr. Staniford no longer poses a menace to the Plaintiff, its employees, and most importantly to human health.”
In her final judgment (expected in a few months) Justice Elaine Adair must therefore rule who is the menace to society and real threat to public health: the 'activist' campaigning against a corportation peddling 'healthy' farmed salmon contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and killing wild salmon, marine mamals and workers or the corporation who is abusing the Canadian courts to muzzle global criticism of salmon farming.
Tomorrow (10 February), Cermaq's lawyers will present Justice Adair with a more precise text of an immediate injunction. "Without an immediate injunction all of this may be for nought," said Cermaq's lawyer Mr. Wotherspoon in his closing submission yesterday (8 February).
Read more via 'Cermaq's Clusterfuck'
At the end of the month, the defendant Don Staniford will be deported by the Canadian Government and will escorted all the way to the British Airways plane by a Canadian Border Services Agency guard carrying a gun and handcuffs. In April, Don Staniford will move to Norway to take up a position with the Green Warriors of Norway.
Read more via 'Green Warriors of the World Unite!'
Cermaq's lawyers, even if they win the immediate injunction they are seeking, will find it impossible to shut down freedom of speech and global criticism of the salmon farming industry. Before Mr. Staniford is deported, he will be speaking at an event on Quadra Island hosted by Sierra Quadra (7.30pm on 25 February at the Community Centre) and will also be speaking at a 'Deportation Party' in Vancouver on 28 February (6pm at W2).