Notice and Limitation Periods

AuthorDavid A. Potts
ProfessionBarrister, Bar of Ontario
 : Notice and Limitation Periods
In the libel and slander statutes of many provinces, notice must be given when
the oending statement is contained either in a newspaper or in a broadcast.
For example, section . of the Ontar io Libel and Slander Act, R .S.O. , c.
L. states as follows:
No action for libel in a newspap er or in a broadca st lies unless the plainti
has, withi n six weeks aer the alleged libel has come to t he plainti’s know-
ledge, given to the defendant notice in writing, specifying the matter com-
plained of, which shall be served in the sa me manner as a statement of claim
or by delivering it to a grown-up person at the chief oce of the defenda nt.
Every jurisdict ion in Canada except Ontario, BC, and Saskatchewan re-
quires that a libel notice must be served w ithin t hree months of the mat-
ter. Saskatchewan requires that a notice of intention to sue for libel be given
ve days before ling a lawsuit aga inst a daily newspaper, and fourteen days
before ling a lawsuit agai nst a weekly. ere is no requirement relati ng to
British Columbia does not require service of a notice of intention to sue
for defamation. A plainti is merely obliged to let one clear day pass between
publication of the libel in a newspaper or broadcast a nd the commencement
of litigation.
Libel and Slander Ac t, R.S.B.C. , c. , s. 
Alberta’s Defamation Act, R.S.A. , c. D-, stipulates that a statutory no-
tice of intended action must be served within t hree months. Section  states:
76 Cyberlibel: Information Warfare in the st Century?
() No action lies unless the plainti has, w ithin  months aer the publica-
tion of the defamatory matter has come to the plainti’s notice or knowledge,
given to the defendant, in t he case of a daily newspaper, , and in the case of
any other newspaper or when the defamatory matter was broadca st,  days’
notice in writing of the plainti ’s intention to bring an action, specifying the
defamatory matter complained of.
() The notice shall be se rved i n the same manner as a state ment of
e defamation statutes of Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland
and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island,
and the Yukon Territory contain notice provisions similar to Alber ta’s.
Manitoba, Defam ation Act, C.C.S.M., c. D, s s. ()–()
New Brunswick , Defamation Act, R.S.N.B. , c . D-
Newfoundland a nd Labrador, Defamation Act, R.S.N. L. , c. D-, ss. ()–()
Northwest Territories, Defam ation Act, R.S.N.W.T. , c. D-, ss. ()–()
Nova Scotia, Defama tion Act, R.S.N.S. , c.  , ss. ()–()
Prince Edward Is land, Defamation Act, R. S.P.E.I. , c. D-, ss . ()–()
Yukon Territory, Defamation Act, R.S.Y. , c. , ss.  ()–()
. e notice requirements are intended to give the newspaper, broadcaster,
or other person responsible for the libel an opportunity to correct, retract,
or apologi ze for t he defamatory statements. In this way, the defendant
may avoid or reduce the damages otherwise payable for the publication of
the libel.
Grossman v. CFTO TV (),  O.R. (d) 
. Failure to serve a notice with in the requirements of the act is an absolute
bar to the action where notice is required.
M.F.C. Capital Inc. v. CBC Broadcast ing, [] M.J. No. 
Merling v. Southam Inc. (C.O.B. Hamilton Spectato r) (),  D.L.R. (th) 
Watson v. Southam Inc. (C.O.B. Hamilton Spectator) (),  D.L.R. (th)  at
para. 
Grossman v. CFTO TV (),  O.R. (d)  to  (C.A.)
. While the defamation statutes of each province and territory (except the
Yukon Territory) require the plainti to give notice of the intended action
by “specifying the defamatory matter complained of,” no particular form
of notice is required.

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