Fact patterns

How two decades worth of media cases are changing the media and journalism industries
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How two decades worth of media cases are changing the media and journalism industries
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The Supreme Court of Canada has taken great pains of late to define the extent of the Charter’s freedom of expression guarantee. In fact, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin may well be remembered for how her court revolutionized media law. The cases have arisen from some of the major scandals, social movements and big news events of the last two decades. Precedent reviews the facts behind some of those cases

Barking up the wrong tree (Quan v. Cusson)
Right after 9/11, then OPP constable Danno Cusson rushed down to New York City with his dog Ranger to help out in the search for survivors in the rubble at Ground Zero. The Ottawa Citizen reported that, despite his claims, Cusson was not a fully-trained canine handler with the RCMP. Cusson sued for inaccuracies in the story and won general damages, before the Supreme Court ordered a new trial to allow the Citizen to use the new “responsible journalism” defence.

Teed off (Grant v. Torstar Corp.)
Lumber baron and Mike Harris intimate Peter Grant sued Toronto Star reporter Bill Schiller and Torstar Corp. for alleging Grant had exercised his political influence to bypass concerns of local citizens and get government approval to expand his golf course on a lakefront near New Liskeard, Ont., in 1998. Grant won $1.475 million at trial. On appeal, the Supreme Court sent it back to be retried.

Paper chase (National Post v. Her Majesty the Queen)
In 2001, a confidential source sent National Post reporter Andrew McIntosh a government document that seemed to show that Auberge Grand-Mère in Shawinigan, Que., had sought a loan from the Business Development Bank of Canada. This was in 1997 when the inn also owed money to the family holding company of then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien — a potentially serious conflict of interest. The Crown believed the document was fake, and obtained a search warrant to require McIntosh to hand it over — which he resisted. The Supreme Court’s decision is pending.

Shock jocks say the darndest things (WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson)
Vancouver radio shock jock Rafe Mair criticized activist Kari Simpson in 1999 for comments she made in her campaign to keep gay-positive materials out of public schools. He compared her inflammatory speeches to those of Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan. Applying the defence of fair comment, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the radio station and its controversial host.