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Defamation is a legal concept that is broad and expanding. The laws are found in provincial and federal legislation, and in judge-made case law from Small Claims Court all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Communications through never-ending new forms of technology are not adequately dealt with, or even dealt with at all, through legislation that was drafted in an earlier era. Technology also brings with it jurisdictional issues such as - where did the offence occur when it was sent over the internet?

An interesting thing about defamation is that it can be criminal, civil, or both. So, you can charge someone with a criminal offence involving defamation, or be charged with the criminal offence. Or, you can sue someone for defamation, or be sued by someone.

For even more complexity, you can sue for defamation and, at the same time, for negligent publication leading to damage to your reputation and to economic loss. This way, if you don't meet the test for defamation as set out in legislation, you can still continue on with the negligence claim.

Here is another interesting overlap of the criminal and civil law with respect to defamation: The Ottawa Police Service posted a video still on an Ottawa Crime Stoppers website that they said showed a women picking up a lost purse in the Rideau Centre and describing her as a suspect in a purse snatching. The woman, on the other hand, later said she had simply found the purse and gave it to a bus driver for the lost and found. She claimed that the public allegation that she was a thief caused her to suffer trauma and a job suspension, among other things. She sued both the Ottawa Police Services Board and Crime Stoppers. There is no word on how that case turned out. But here's a tip: don't touch the purse. Alert mall security officers instead. You're on candid camera!

If you have any questions relating to pre-publication of material you think may be defamatory, or if you want to know your rights in a civil or criminal action, call me at 613.203.4874. Visit my main website by clicking here.