The Joyce Arthur Defamation Suit and the Tactic of Being Vague

This morning I published the following blog post over at ActivateCFPL, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s law and public policy blog:

In 2009, Arthur wrote a report for the now-defunct Pro-Choice Action Network (“Pro-CAN”) entitled Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in British Columbia. With the help of government funding via a Status of Women Canada grant of $27,400 and the proposed research goal of “expos[ing] the anti-woman and anti-feminist agenda of CPCs,” Arthur eventually issued her assessment of CPCs. Her report claimed, in short, that CPCs employ unethical tactics and strategies that hurt and deceive women.

Since the report was garnering more internet attention than it deserves, the Vancouver and Burnaby CPCs launched a defamation suit against Arthur and Pro-CAN in hopes that the court would order Arthur to withdraw or correct her report. Strategically, and given the great costs of litigation these days, the CPCs and their lawyer carefully chose the allegations made in the report that they deemed most defamatory but also simple enough to disprove in court…

Unfortunately the court found that the report was so unclear in its attributions of wrong-doing that a reasonable person reading the report wouldn’t necessarily think that the Vancouver and Burnaby CPCs were guilty of committing those particular ethical breaches…

In fact, in her gleeful recounting of the case, Arthur concedes that that was her legal strategy in the defamation suit. Her strategy amounted to arguing “that the report did not specifically say that the two plaintiff CPCs used any of the described tactics…”

Read the rest here.