TORONTO – An Ontario cabinet minister has launched a defamation lawsuit against the Globe and Mail newspaper over articles that said Canadian intelligence agents had expressed concerns about his “unusually close ties” to Chinese officials.
The statement of claim by Michael Chan makes good on a libel notice he sent the paper last month after it refused to retract its stories or apologize.
“I said I would pursue all legal remedies to restore my good name and mitigate the damage caused to my reputation by the Globe‘s deeply offensive personal attacks,” Chan said in statement Friday.
“I regret that I have been compelled to turn to the courts, but I cannot and will not let these unfounded attacks and allegations go unanswered.”
In the unproven claim filed with Superior Court this week, the minister for citizenship, immigration and international trade says the backdrop to the articles is five years old, when the then-director of Canada’s spy service said, without naming names, that some Canadian politicians were under the influence of a foreign government.
The story appeared to go away after the B.C. and Ontario governments said they had no concerns—until the Globe published its front-page story in mid-June.
“The Globe and Mail would sensationally claim it had ‘revelations’ as a result of an ‘investigation’ that CSIS had taken the ‘extraordinary’ step of having ‘warned’ or ‘formally cautioned’ the Ontario government that Michael Chan ‘could be a threat’ to national security and/or national interests,” the legal claim asserts.
“Nothing in the Globe and Mail articles would be news. The articles would, however, be defamatory of a man who has devoted a significant part of his life to serving his constituents and the people of Ontario.”
The suit, which names Globe publisher Phillip Crawley, its editor-in-chief David Walmsley, and reporter Craig Offman, seeks $4.5 million in general and punitive damages.
It also seeks $50,000 from Charles Burton, a political science professor at Brock University, who wrote a column in the Globe in which he said Chan was “under the undue influence of the government of China.”
“Seeing as the matter is with the lawyers, I don’t expect to be making any public comment about it unless I am advised otherwise,” Burton said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Crawley, Walmsley and Offman did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
When outgoing Justice Minister Peter MacKay was asked to comment on the Globe report, he said he couldn’t discuss Chan’s case because it was an “ongoing investigation.” MacKay later backed away from the comments.
In his statement, Chan said the Globe‘s stories tell immigrants that their loyalty to Canada could be questioned.
“This is dangerous and wrong,” he said, calling the Globe one of the most powerful and influential newspapers in Canada.
He also said he would donate any money he receives to a hospital foundation and a group that supports writers and free expression.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has backed Chan, saying there were no specific allegations and the concerns were baseless.
A subsidiary of the Globe and Mail holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with Torstar and the parent company of Montreal’s La Presse.