An exempt market dealer and the firm’s president have won damages in a defamation suit against a blogger that falsely disparaged their reputations.
The Supreme Court of B.C. ruled that Surrey, B.C.-based Canada Easy Investment Store Corp. and its chief compliance officer Ralph van der Walle were defamed in blog posts and emails by Daryl MacAskill.
According to the decision, the firm runs the Western Canada Monthly Income Fund, which has financed ventures including real estate developments.
The court said that negative blog posts about the firm and van der Walle began appearing in September 2020 “using phrases like ‘dodgy real estate projects’, ‘scam real estate projects’, and ‘securities scams.'”
The plaintiffs maintained that the allegations are entirely false. The court noted: “On the record before me, Mr. MacAskill has never produced a shred of evidence to support his allegations.”
The plaintiffs in the case also “presented evidence to show that the defendant’s allegations are groundless and could not be true,” it said.
In March 2021, a court granted an interim injunction against MacAskill prohibiting him from publishing baseless allegations against the plaintiffs, and ordering him to remove his existing posts.
Initially MacAskill complied with the court order, but “subsequently renewed his campaign against the plaintiffs by publishing derogatory posts about them,” the court said.
Ultimately, the court concluded that the posts were defamatory, that none of the possible defences to a defamation claim were viable (MacAskill didn’t participate in the hearing), and that “there is overwhelming evidence of actual malice, as well as dishonesty and reckless disregard for the truth.”
It ordered $150,000 in general damages, $10,000 in aggravated damages, and another $30,000 in punitive damages “to punish Mr. MacAskill’s conduct and, one would hope, deter him from engaging in this kind of manipulative, harmful, and socially destructive behaviour in the future.”
The total of $190,000 in damages was to be divided equally between the firm and van der Walle.
The court also granted permanent injunctive relief, ordering MacAskill to take down his posts and to refrain from contacting the plaintiffs (other than through their lawyer).
It noted that “while the damages award of $190,000 is warranted and important as a means of compensating the plaintiffs and deterring and punishing Mr. MacAskill, it may well be a hollow victory for the plaintiffs. I therefore find this to be an appropriate case for a permanent injunction.”
On costs, the court found that an award of special costs was justified in the case: “The plaintiffs should be entitled to recover as much of their legal costs as they can from the defendant, given his conduct in the course of the litigation.”