Defamation Claim Against CSASPP And Donor Dismissed As A SLAPP

June 28, 2022, a $1.1 million defamation lawsuit was filed against the B.C. based group CSASPP, and 3 of its members. It was commenced 18 months ago, and finally thrown out by Justice Chalmers under Ontario’s anti-SLAPP laws. (See CanLII version).

For a bit of context, “SLAPP” is an acronym for a strategic lawsuit against public participation. It’s when a person or group sues another in order to silence their expression on issues of public interest.

The suit was filed by “Mr. Bad Beyond Argument” himself, who seems to put more effort into threatening and suing his critics than he does in holding tyrannical administrations to account. This site has extensively covered just how shoddy those pleadings are.

An anti-SLAPP Motion is simply a Motion to dismiss. It’s complex, and there are many steps, but really, it’s just a Motion to dismiss. Here are the basic requirements:

Tests that must be met by both sides

The Defendant(s), or Moving Part(y/ies), must convince the Judge that the expression is that of a public interest. Specifically, it must be on a topic that at least a segment of the population has a genuine interest in knowing about. By design, it’s a very low burden.

If successful, the burden shifts to the Plaintiff(s), or Respondent(s), who then must pass 3 conjunctive tests. If the Plaintiff(s) fails even 1 part, then the case must be dismissed.

(A) The Plaintiff(s) must convince the Judge that there is “substantial merit” to the allegations. That’s not to say that a win is guaranteed, but that it’s more likely than not that it could prevail at Trial.

(B) The Plaintiff(s) must convince the Judge that there are no reasonable defences that are likely available. There are many ways to overcome a defamation suit, and the Plaintiff(s) must show that there are no plausible ones.

(C) The Plaintiff(s) must convince the Judge that there is greater public interest in allowing the case to proceed to Trial than there is in protecting the expression. At the heart of it, the Plaintiff(s) must also show that the expression led to (or will lead to) serious financial and/or reputational harm. Here, the Court decides which will prevail.

Here, the CSASPP Defendants prevailed in every aspect. It wasn’t a close call, or a difficult case.

[45] The pandemic and the governments’ response affected virtually all Canadians. The actions commenced by A4C, and the Society are proposed class actions. I am of the view that segments of the public have a genuine interest in receiving information about a lawyer who is acting for plaintiffs in a proposed class action that challenges the government’s response to the pandemic.

[46] The expression relates to the differences between the actions commenced by the Plaintiff on behalf of VCC and A4C, and the action commenced by the Society. The expression also relates to the use of funds donated to be used in the litigation to challenge the government’s response to the pandemic. Those members of the public who donated money for the litigation would have a genuine interest about the quality of legal representation and how their donations are being used.

The public has a valid interest in knowing what is happening with those cases, and how the money being donated is being spent.

The Plaintiff couldn’t even meet a single branch of the test

(A) The Court found that there was no merit to the defamation claims, so the case was effectively over then. Additionally, the other “torts” such as: abuse of process; unlawful means; harassment; conspiracy, etc… were just derivatives of the defamation claims.

(B) The Court accepted all defences that were offered, including: (i) absolute privilege; (ii) qualified privilege; (iii) justification, or truth; and (iv) fair comment. Absolute privilege protects complaints to quasi-judicial bodies, and prevents retaliatory lawsuits. Qualified privilege refers to an obligation — usually professional — to speak out. Fair comment refers to the protection of people to express opinions that could honestly be held.

(C) The Court also found that there was much stronger interest in protecting the expression than allowing the case to continue. It didn’t help that while financial losses were alleged, the details of which were withheld. Nor did it help that there were many other sources of criticism, making it harder to pinpoint a source.

At its core, it was about 4 different expressions

(1) A January 2021 email to Dan Dicks of Press for Truth, inviting people to donate this case, as opposed to the Action4Canada one. At the time, there had been nothing filed, despite months of fundraising.

(2) A June 2021 change to the FAQ (frequently asked questions) which stated clearly that there was no association or affiliation between the groups, and gave reasons why. It was also largely a duplicate of the Dicks email.

(3) A January 2022 complaint to the LSO — or Law Society of Ontario — asking for information as to the whereabouts of money donated to various cases.

(4) Allegations — not properly pleaded — of a conversation where there was a desire to see the Plaintiff disbarred and criminally charged with fraud.

Interestingly, the Dicks email and the FAQ took place more than a year prior to this case being filed. It’s the LSO complaint that appears to have been the driving force.

Brief timeline of major events

January 2021: CSASPP emails Dan Dicks in order to promote their proposed suit, and to pitch it as a better investment than Action4Canada.

June 2021: CSASPP puts the section up on their FAQ, supposedly to quell constant inquiries about who they are connected to, and what there role is in other cases.

January 15, 2022: the original LSO complaint is put forward to the LSO, although it appears that it wasn’t immediately accepted.

May 19, 2022: The LSO finally forwards the complaint and demands a response.

June 28, 2022: The $1.1 million dollar suit is filed against CSASPP and its people

June 29, 2022: A letter is sent to the LSO, informing them that Donna Toews has been sued, and that the Court will effectively be deciding the issue.

July 12, 2022: The Law Society itself is sued, and the Toews complaint makes up large part of it. One can assume this was done to further thwart any investigation into the complaint. The suit demands $500,000 in damages, and is very poorly written.

July 13, 2022: There’s an appearance on a livestream with Vaccine Choice Canada, bragging about the CSASPP and LSO suits which have just been filed. It’s plausible to view this as a publicity stunt. Supposedly, neither CSASPP nor the LSO had actually been served by this point.

October 12, 2022: CSASPP and the LSO appear in Court on the same day to set down dates to throw out their respective cases. CSASPP’s Motion is based on s.137.1 of the Courts of Justice Act (anti-SLAPP). The LSO Motion is based on Rule 21 of Civil Procedure (failing to state a cause of action). Both are to be heard the next Autumn.

The next several months is a document exchange of the papers needed to carry out the anti-SLAPP Motion. The LSO documents are also attached below.

July 28, 2023: CSASPP files their Factum, or written arguments. This is a Friday, and it’s interesting to see what happens the following Monday.

July 31, 2023: The Law Society is sued for a second time, and it’s largely a rehash of the first one. Another $500,000 is sought. It’s possible this was done to “keep open” litigation against the LSO, assuming the first case is thrown out.

September 12, 2023: CSASPP’s Motion to dismiss is heard, with the ruling under reserve.

September 21, 2023: LSO’s Motion to strike is heard, the ruling under reserve.

December 11, 2023: The suit against CSASPP is dismissed as a SLAPP. The Court finds that the suit was brought for the improper purposes of stifling debate, and to intimidate people from filing LSO complaints. In essence, it’s a finding of professional misconduct.

The Law Society Complaint from Donna Toews

On June 19, 2020, I donated $1000 in my husband’s name to Vaccine Choice Canada with specific instructions to give the donation to the Legal Fund headed by Mr. Galati, who was preparing a claim seeking relief on behalf of Canadians wronged by the actions of government officials and others because of Covid-19. I also donated $1000 to Action4Canada, which was soliciting donations to fund a similar lawsuit in British Columbia. I understand that Vaccine Choice Canada,Action4Canada, and a third organization in Quebec have raised approximately $3,500,000 to finance litigation in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. Vaccine Choice Canada confirmed that my donation had gone to its Legal Fund to support its legal fees for the constitutional challenge to be brought by Mr. Galati.

As VCC suggested, I “added a membership to my file” so that I would be invited to members only meetings with Mr. Galati. (This email exchange is attached. I have redacted my name and other information that may identify me). Mr. Galati commenced the action on behalf of Vaccine Choice Canada and other plaintiffs on July 6, 2020.

Mr. Galati stated during a media interview that he would be sure that an interim hearing would be held before December 2020. I received no information about the progress of the litigation until almost 18 months later. I was not invited to any members only meetings with Mr. Galati in the meantime. No interim hearing has been held, and no Statements of Defence have been delivered as far as I can determine. No default proceedings have been taken. In fact, I do not know whether the defendants have even been served with the Statement of Claim.

I wrote to Vaccine Choice Canada on December 20, 2021, to ask whether anything had come of the lawsuit and whether the Court had seen it yet. Vaccine Choice Canada replied on January 2, 2022, that, “our case filed in the summer of 2020 has not had a hearing yet. The lawyer is working backstage, but he does not want to tell anything of what he is doing so he does not give an opportunity to the enemy.” (This email exchange is attached. I have redacted my name and other information that may identify me).

I do not know the relationship between Vaccine Choice Canada, or Action4Canada,and Mr. Galati, other than that Mr. Galati is representing them in the litigation. No financial statements of VCC have been filed with Corporations Canada as of December 22, 2021. I do not know much of the funds raised by these organizations have been turned over to Mr. Galati in trust, how much he has been paid, or what he expects to result from the claim he has started (but, evidently neglected to pursue).

Justice Chalmers not only ruled that the Toews complaint was protected by absolute privilege. He found that she had been sued in order to derail the complaint, and as an act of intimidation.

From the ruling

[89] With respect to the claim against Ms. Toews, I am of the view that “what is really going on” is an attempt to intimidate members of the public who may be considering making a complaint about the Plaintiff to the LSO. The effect of the action against Ms. Toews would be to obstruct the regulatory process. The harm this would cause in the LSO’s ability to receive and process complaints about lawyers is, in my view significant.

[94] I also find that there is a strong public interest in protecting the right of members of the public to make complaints to quasi-judicial bodies such as the LSO. If the public could be subject to expensive litigation for making a complaint, this would impair the ability of the LSO to regulate the profession. I find that this harm outweighs any harm that may have been suffered by the Plaintiff because of the LSO complaint.

[98] For the reasons set out above, I find that the Plaintiff brought this action for the improper purpose of stifling debate with respect to his handling of a proposed class action that is being funded by public donations. I also note that the Claim was brought one day before the Plaintiff submitted a response to the LSO with respect to Ms. Toews complaint. I find that the Claim was brought for the improper purpose of limiting the LSO investigation, and to intimidate others from making any LSO complaints about him.

This is now official: an ONSC Judge has ruled that a lawsuit was filed in order to sabotage an existing LSO complaint, and to intimidate others from making complaints. This is grounds for disbarment, and there is precedent in Ontario for revoking licences under these circumstances.

Justice Chalmers also found that criticising “Mr. Bad Beyond Argument” was justified, because his cases — particularly his anti-lockdown suits — were objectively very poor.

[74] In the e-mail to Mr. Dicks dated January 29, 2022, Mr. Gandhi supported the statement with hyperlinks to support the statements. The statements made in the FAQ are also supported by hyperlinks that provides that factual support for the statements. The statements made in the e-mail to Mr. Dicks and in the FAQ, that the Plaintiff has been criticized by the courts in other cases, is supported by the following decisions: Sivak v. Canada, at para. 55, Galati v. Harper, at para. 35, Da Silva Campos v. Canada, at para. 12, Wang v. Canada, 2016 FC 1052, at para. 31, and Al Omani v. Canada 2017 FC 786, at para. 94-95.

[75] In the e-mail to Mr. Dicks, Mr. Gandhi states that lawyers who reviewed the Ontario claim, “said it was very poorly drafted” and “will most likely get struck”. I am of the view that there is justification for this comment. The Ontario pleading is prolix and argumentative. The claim advances pseudo-legal concepts and conspiracy theories that the pandemic was pre-planned and executed by the WHO, Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum and unnamed billionaires and oligarchs. The similarly drafted A4C claim was struck by Justice Ross. In doing so, he described the pleading as “bad beyond argument”.

[87] The comment with respect to the quality of the Plaintiff’s legal services is analogous to reviews of other products and services. Courts have recognized that discussion among the consuming public of the quality of services is a matter of public interest: Canadian Thermo Windows Inc. v. Seangio, 2021 ONSC 6555, at para. 5. The Defendants argue that the stifling of reasonable public debate as to the value of a lawyer’s services, tactics or approach to litigation negatively affects public confidence in the legal system. The Defendants also argue that it would bring the legal system into disrepute if a lawyer could drag those who question the value of his or her services through expensive litigation. I agree.

[93] On the other side of the ledger, I find that there is a strong public interest in protecting the expression. The Plaintiff is advancing a public interest class action with respect to the government’s restrictions in response to the pandemic. Members of the class, and persons who have donated to the litigation have a right to information about the lawyer retained to prosecute the claims.

One very minor error: neither the VCC nor A4C cases are class actions, although they would have the large impact on the public, depending on the ruling.

Apparently an appeal is already in the works. It’s unclear what possible grounds there are for reversal, as there are no major errors in the ruling.

Should people still be donating to these lawsuits, knowing that the lawyer in charge of them could very well be disbarred for bringing this case? Keep in mind, the LSO won’t take too kindly to having to pay to defend 2 frivolous suits themselves. Perhaps it’s time to consider other options.

One final thought: successful anti-SLAPP Motions in Ontario typically lead to “full indemnity” (or 100% of costs) for the Defendant(s). Considering the volume of paperwork involved here, it could easily top $100,000 to $150,000. Many such awards have been handed out in recent years, and in fact, have gone much higher. If the case is appealed unsuccessfully, that will likely lead to full indemnity costs as well.

CSASPP/RG DOCUMENTS (June 2022)
(a) CSASPP RG Statement Of Claim
(b) CSASPP RG Moving Party Motion Record Volume 1
(c) CSASPP RG Moving Party Motion Record Volume 2
(d) CSASPP RG Moving Party Motion Record Volume 3
(e) CSASPP RG Responding Motion Record Volume 1
(f) CSASPP RG Responding Motion Record Volume 2
(g) CSASPP RG Responding Motion Record Volume 3
(h) CSASPP RG Moving Party Supplemental Motion Record
(i) CSASPP RG Moving Party Record Motion To Strike
(j) CSASPP RG Plaintiffs Responding Record Motion To Strike
(k) CSASPP RG Moving Party Factum (Arguments)
(l) CSASPP RG Responding Plaintiff Factum
(m) CSASPP RG Moving Parties Reply Factum
(n) CSASPP RG Reasons For Judgement
(o) CanLII Posting Of Decision

1ST LAW SOCIETY OF ONTARIO CLAIM (July 2022)
(a) Law Society Of Ontario Statement Of Claim
(b) Law Society Of Ontario Intent To Defend
(c) Law Society Of Ontario Amended Statement Of Claim
(d) Law Society Of Ontario Requisition For Amended Claim
(e) Law Society Of Ontario Motion Record, To Strike
(f) Law Society Of Ontario Moving Party Factum To Strike
(g) Law Society Of Ontario Plaintiff Responding Factum

2ND LAW SOCIETY OF ONTARIO CLAIM (July 2023)
(a) Law Society Of Ontario Second Statement Of Claim

2 Replies to “Defamation Claim Against CSASPP And Donor Dismissed As A SLAPP”

  1. Thank you for this. For some reason, all of this effort to suppress public discussion about a legal project may just blow up into a major scandal that might also open up the whole issue of how lawyers enrich themselves taking on cases that have no merit.

  2. there is another possible explanation for the astonishingly low “quality” of Mr Galati’s work in the COVID cases, then this SLAPP lawsuit. It’s thinkable that – when he was in that 10-day induced coma in hospital – he lost his mind. Or at least = significant part of his professional expertise.

Leave a Reply

Discover more from Canuck Law

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading