The freedom to spread rumours about your opponent


Irwin Cotler is pursuing a point of privilege on this matter of the Conservative party telling his constituents that he plans to quit.

This morning, Peter Van Loan responded with an appeal to the freedom of speech and the long practice of peddling rumours about one’s political opponents.


The freedom to spread rumours about your opponent

  1. “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it….. subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

    And when you get caught spreading untrue and harmful rumours about someone…they call it something quite different.

  2. I hear Peter Van Loan has some offshore accounts that are a bit dirty….and he eats kittens.

  3. van loan reminds me of this guy: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-RQB-Cpxj1nY/Tae9HPSbkCI/AAAAAAAAADs/r3-UAlfQJ7s/s1600/bossnass.jpg

  4. Mr. Van Loan should be aware that his right to free speech (outside of parliament) is subject to certain ‘reasonable limits’. Including criminal and common law rules against Libel and Slander.

    • It’s a scummy practice, what the Tories are apparently doing, but it doesn’t really rise to the level of defamation — if we thought what the Tories were saying were true, we wouldn’t think badly of Cotler.  That’s really the standard required for a statement to be defamatory.

      • He’s said he has constituents calling his office ‘shocked’ that he would resign. It’s fair to say that as a politician his honesty, credibility and integrity are important elements of his reputation (the SCC said the career of the person defamed can be a relevant consideration in an action for defamation in Hill v. Church of Scientology).

        But my point was directed more to the House Leader’s comments than the particular situation he was addressing – Van Loan’s argument that anyone who seizes upon any rumor or innuendo, no matter how far fetched,  and then purposely spreads and substantiates it in an attempt to undermine the reputation of the subject of those rumors is protected by a defence of ‘truth’ endorses something far worse than they’re doing to Cotler. His assertion that it should be okay now because it happened in the 1870s is nearly comical.

      • It is not that what the Conservatives are doing rises to the level of defamation it’s that it constitutes a breach of Mr. Cotler’s privileges as a Member of Parliament.  That is the case.

        Van Loan tries to elevate the matter to one of freedom of speech but gets royally smacked by Cotler’s retort in the House.  Beautiful to watch.

  5. “Mr. Speaker, I know nothing of the activities that the hon. member has complained of, though it is quite evident and the government is certainly willing to admit that he is in fact here today in Parliament. That, I think, is evident to everybody.
    However, it does bring to mind a dilemma that was faced by Sir John A. Macdonald over several decades, when George Brown, holding the editorial pen of The Globe, repeatedly wrote that he was about to resign. Though that did go on for several decades, I do not ever recall a point of order being made or a point of privilege being made at that time.
    However, if we do see fit to make further submissions, we will advise you”

    Van loan also said this. While i’m no lawyer i believe i can smell a disingenuous argument when it’s made. Along with his other remarks on the link VL is conflating two very differnt scenarios – yes it was unfair that Brown was able to editorialize[ was Brown in parliament at the time?] against Macdonald, a situation we wouldn’t tolerate today; and that’s the point, they arn’t the same at all. Sir John could not do anything, Cotler can and has. He’s clearly said he’s not stepping down and it should end there as far as the CPC is concerned. A point of privilege wont handcuff pundits or anyone outside of political opponents who choose to give oxygen to politcal rumours after the mp has made his position clear. At least in such a clear cut case as this – it isn’t a matter of opinion or even a subjective difference of opinion, hence debatable, if Cotler say he’s not stepping down period. To carry on regardless is disgraceful. VL’s arguments are self serving as always – which should surprise no one.

  6. The freedom to spread rumours …..,

    that privilege is reserved for our msm.

    So is the freedom to make unfounded accusations while hiding behind anon sources,
    so Charlie Angus must apologize, but not our msm .

    PVL is correct.
    Can’t insulate MPs from criticism, that would put our media out of work.

    • Criticism implies that an action was taken with which one disagrees.  Not in this case.  If the Conservatives oppose Mr. Cotler’s position on X, they they should criticize him for holding this position.  Not in this case.  This is spreading rumours for the intent of harming someone.

    • Calling Cotler’s constituents and saying “Cotler’s a dolt, and you probably shouldn’t vote for him next election” is “criticism”.  Calling his constituents and suggesting there’s about to be a by-election because Cotler’s about to resign isn’t “criticism”, it’s just “spreading rumours”.

      To my mind, cold-calling constituents to ask voters in Cotler’s riding if they’d vote CPC if there was a by-election because Cotler resigned is just a shade more acceptable than calling voters in Stephen Harper’s riding to ask if they’d vote Liberal if the PM got divorced.

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