Thomas v. CBC, (1981) 27 A.R. 547 (NWTSC)

JudgeDisbery, J.
CourtSupreme Court of Northwest Territories (Canada)
Case DateMarch 26, 1981
JurisdictionNorthwest Territories
Citations(1981), 27 A.R. 547 (NWTSC)

Thomas v. CBC (1981), 27 A.R. 547 (NWTSC)

MLB headnote and full text

Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Sanders

Indexed As: Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders

Northwest Territories Supreme Court

Disbery, J.

March 26, 1981.

Summary:

The plaintiff, a professional petroleum engineer with the federal government, brought an action for defamation arising out of four news stories prepared by the defendant investigative reporter and broadcast over C.B.C. radio. The first two broadcasts were presented over the local C.B.C. station for reception in the Northwest Territories and nearby northern areas. The third broadcast occurred over the C.B.C. national program "The World at Eight" and the fourth over the local C.B.C. station. (For text of broadcasts see paragraphs 12, 14, 16 and 18). The alleged defamation concerned statements regarding drilling operations, an explosion and the plaintiff's actions as regional conservation engineer in the drilling of an off-shore exploratory well below the Beaufort Sea.

The Northwest Territories Supreme Court allowed the plaintiff's action. The court held that three of the four broadcasts (see paragraphs 12, 14 and 16) were defamatory. The court assessed general damages at $20,000.00.

Libel and Slander - Topic 646

The statement - What constitutes defamatory statement - General principles - From meaning of words themselves - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that the plaintiff must establish that the words used are themselves capable of conveying a meaning tending to defame, either by forthrightly saying so or by a reasonable inference - See paragraphs 39 to 41.

Libel and Slander - Topic 648

The statement - What constitutes defamatory statement - General principles - Determination of meaning of words used - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that it was the duty of the court to determine if the words spoken, upon being given their natural and ordinary meaning as understood by average, right-thinking and reasonable persons, could convey to such persons a derogatory meaning tending to defame - See paragraph 45.

Libel and Slander - Topic 745

The statement - What constitutes defamatory statement - Slander - Statements which are slanderous - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that any statement which may tend to lower the person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, or which expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, whether or not it is believed by those to whom is it published, constitutes a defamatory statement - See paragraphs 30 to 33.

Libel and Slander - Topic 748

The statement - What constitutes defamatory statements - Slander - Respecting a person's profession, trade or office - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court generally discussed what constitutes a defamatory statement with respect to a person's profession, trade or occupation or with respect to the carrying out of the duties and responsibilities of a holder of a public or private office - See paragraphs 34 to 36.

Libel and Slander - Topic 750

The statement - What constitutes defamatory statements - Slander - Repetitions - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that every repetition of a slander constitutes a new slander - See paragraph 20.

Libel and Slander - Topic 905

The statement - The innuendo - As separate cause of action - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court held that defamation by innuendo is a separate cause of action distinct from a cause of action for defamation based on the natural and ordinary meaning of the words complained of - See paragraph 65.

Libel and Slander - Topic 1400

Identification of person defamed - General - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that the plaintiff, in an action for slander, must prove that he was identified to listeners as the person whose conduct was attacked in a defamatory way - See paragraphs 37 and 38.

Libel and Slander - Topic 2041

Publication - Republication - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court held that the defendant broadcasting company and the defendant investigative reporter were legally responsible not only for what they themselves originated and authored, but also, to the same extent, for the hearsay repetitions they saw fit to include in their broadcasts and published to the listening members of the public - See paragraph 20.

Libel and Slander - Topic 3103

Defences - Fair comment - Scope of - The right of the freedom of the media to comment was raised by defence counsel - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that no privilege attaches to the position of journalist - See paragraphs 141 to 142.

Libel and Slander - Topic 3109

Defences - Fair comment - Elements of fair comment - Truth - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court held that the defence of fair comment failed, because the defendants' opinion was not founded upon a true statement of the facts - See paragraphs 128 to 140.

Libel and Slander - Topic 3114

Defences - Fair comment - What constitutes fair comment - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court held that to only give the public a look at the side of the coin supportive of the defendants' comments and opinions and not to show the facts to the contrary was to deal in half-truths and comments made in such a way were neither fair nor made in good faith - See paragraphs 143 to 149.

Libel and Slander - Topic 4423

Damages - General damages - Measure of - Elements - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court generally discussed elements to be considered in the assessment of damages for defamation - See paragraphs 160 to 172.

Libel and Slander - Topic 4423

Damages - General damages - Measure of - Elements - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court, in an assessment of damages for defamation resulting from radio news broadcasts, referred to the fact that the matter had been researched for three to four weeks prior to broadcast - The court stated that broadcasting accuracy, objectivity and fair comment had been sacrificed for sensationalism - See paragraph 171.

Libel and Slander - Topic 4427

Damages - General damages - Measure of - Plea of justification - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court stated that a plea of justification should not be put on record unless counsel is satisfied of clear and sufficient evidence, because the plea is calculated to seriously aggravate damages awarded if it should fail - The court held that the defendants continued to defame the plaintiff by repeating their slanders right to the end of trial, thus giving slanders new publicity - See paragraphs 168 and 169.

Libel and Slander - Topic 6128

Practice - Pleadings - Statement of claim - Defamation - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court held that by s. 4 of the Defamation Ordinance (N.W.T.), the court is no longer plagued by former precedents regarding the sufficiency of statements of claim where an innuendo is raised together with the pleading of extrinsic supporting facts - See paragraph 23.

Damage Awards - Topic 632

Torts - Torts affecting the person - Libel and slander - Plaintiff professional petroleum engineer holding federal government office - Slander arose from two local C.B.C. radio broadcasts to audience of 24,700 residents and national C.B.C. program "The World at Eight" to a listening audience of approximately 540,000 - The plaintiff was not criticized in the community and did not suffer material injury or damage; however, his job authority was restricted - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court assessed general damages at $20,000.00 - See paragraphs 160 to 172.

Damages - Topic 65

General principles - Considerations in assessing damages - Inflation - The Northwest Territories Supreme Court considered the fall in the purchasing value of the Canadian dollar in the assessment of damages in an action for defamation - See paragraph 170.

Cases Noticed:

Cherneskey v. Armadale Publishers Ltd. et al., [1978] 6 W.W.R. 618; [1979] 1 S.C.R. 1067; 24 N.R. 271; 7 C.C.L.T. 69, appld. [paras. 20, 32, 131, 142].

Lewis v. Daily Telegraph Ltd., [1964] A.C. 234, refd to. [paras. 20, 65].

Grubb v. Bristol United Press Ltd., [1962] 2 All E.R. 380, consd. [paras. 23, 40, 64, 65].

England v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Clarkson, [1979] 3 W.W.R. 193; 97 D.L.R.(3d) 472, appld. [paras. 31, 33, 35, 41, 56, 142].

Sykes v. Fraser, [1974] S.C.R. 526; [1973] 5 W.W.R. 484; [1971] 1 W.W.R. 246; [1971] 3 W.W.R. 161, consd. [paras. 37, 55, 56, 126, 133, 140].

Rubber Improvement Ltd. et al. v. Daily Telegraph Ltd., [1964] A.C. 234, consd. [paras. 43, 46].

Jones v. Bennett (1967), 59 W.W.R.(N.S.) 449, refd to. [para. 48].

Lawson v. Burns, Succamore and Jim Pattis on Broadcasting Ltd., [1975] 1 W.W.R. 171, refd to. [para. 48].

Till v. Town of Oakville (1914), 31 O.L.R. 405, refd to. [para. 124].

Holt v. Sun Publishing Co. Ltd., 100 D.L.R.(3d) 447, refd to. [para. 126]; consd. [para. 134].

McLoughlin v. Kutasy, [1979] 2 S.C.R. 311; 26 N.R. 242, consd. [para. 135].

Arnold v. The King Emperor (1914), 30 T.L.R. 462, consd. [paras. 141, 142, 157].

Banks v. Globe and Mail Ltd. et al. (1961), 28 D.L.R.(2d) 343, consd. [para. 141].

Baxter v. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1980), 30 N.B.R.(2d) 102; 70 A.P.R. 102, refd to. [para. 149].

Jones v. Skelton, [1963] 3 All E.R. 952; [1963] 1 W.L.R. 1362, refd to. [para. 149].

Statutes Noticed:

Broadcasting Act, R.S.C. 1970, c. B-11 [para. 6].

Defamation Ordinance, R.O.N.W.T. 1974, c. D-1 [para. 8]; sect. 2(b) [para. 9]; sect. 4 [para. 22].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Duncan and Hoolahan, Guide to Defamation Practice (2nd Ed. 1958), p. 50 [para. 169].

Gatley on Libel and Slander (6th Ed. 1967), p. 68, para. 120 [para. 41]; pp. 130, 264, 591 [para. 20].

Gatley on Libel and Slander (7th Ed.), pp. 4 to 5, para. 4 [para. 32]; 13 to 14, para. 31 [para. 30]; 152 [para. 69]; 297 to 298 [para. 136]; 559, para. 1380 [para. 161]; 991 [para. 67].

Odgers on Libel and Slander (6th Ed.), pp. 25, 46 [para. 36].

Shakespeare, William, Othello, The Moor of Venice [para. 160].

Stroud's Judicial Dictionary (4th Ed.), vol. 1, pp. 402 [para. 124]; 1378 [para. 67].

Counsel:

J. Edward Richard, for the plaintiff;

Angus G. MacDonald, Q.C., for the defendants.

This action was heard before DISBERY, J., of the Northwest Territories Supreme Court, at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, on June 16 to 20, and June 23 to 27, 1980.

The judgment of DISBERY, J., was delivered on March 26, 1981.

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8 practice notes
  • Myers v. CBC, (1999) 103 O.T.C. 81 (SC)
    • Canada
    • Ontario Superior Court of Justice of Ontario (Canada)
    • November 19, 1999
    ...Corp. (1981), 49 N.S.R.(2d) 381; 96 A.P.R. 381 (T.D.), dist. [para. 175]. Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders (1981), 27 A.R. 547; 16 C.C.L.T. 113 (N.W.T.S.C.), dist. [para. Ungaro v. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. et al. (1997), 23 O.T.C. 25; 144 D.L.R.(4th) 84 (Gen. Div.), ref......
  • Halluk v. Brown, (1982) 41 A.R. 350 (QB)
    • Canada
    • Alberta Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta (Canada)
    • December 16, 1982
    ...526, appld. [para. 13]. Syme v. Canaven, [1918] V.L.R. 540; 25 C.L.R. 234, appld. [para. 14]. Thomas v. C.B.C., [1981] 4 W.W.R. 289; 27 A.R. 547, appld. [para. England v. C.B.C., [1979] 3 W.W.R. 193; 97 D.L.R.(3d) 472, appld. [para. 21]. Grubb v. Bristol United Press, [1963] 1 Q.B. 309, app......
  • Laufer v. Bucklaschuk, 1999 CanLII 5073 (MB CA)
    • Canada
    • Manitoba Court of Appeal (Manitoba)
    • October 7, 1999
    ...Publishing Co., [1972] N.Z.L.R. 83 (S.C.), refd to. [para. 31]. Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders, [1981] 4 W.W.R. 289; 27 A.R. 547 (N.W.T.S.C.), refd to. [para. Farrell v. St. John's Publishing Co. et al. (1982), 35 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 181; 99 A.P.R. 181 (Nfld. T.D.), refd......
  • Leenen v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. et al., (2000) 105 O.T.C. 91 (SC)
    • Canada
    • Ontario Superior Court of Justice of Ontario (Canada)
    • April 20, 2000
    ...Corp., [1982] 3 W.W.R. 97 (B.C.S.C.), refd to. [para. 126]. Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders, [1981] 4 W.W.R. 289; 27 A.R. 547 (N.W.T.S.C.), refd to. [para. O'Brien v. Salsbury (Marquis) (1889), 6 T.L.R. 133 (Q.B.), refd to. [para. 135]. Boland v. Globe and Mail, [1961] O.R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Myers v. CBC, (1999) 103 O.T.C. 81 (SC)
    • Canada
    • Ontario Superior Court of Justice of Ontario (Canada)
    • November 19, 1999
    ...Corp. (1981), 49 N.S.R.(2d) 381; 96 A.P.R. 381 (T.D.), dist. [para. 175]. Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders (1981), 27 A.R. 547; 16 C.C.L.T. 113 (N.W.T.S.C.), dist. [para. Ungaro v. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. et al. (1997), 23 O.T.C. 25; 144 D.L.R.(4th) 84 (Gen. Div.), ref......
  • Halluk v. Brown, (1982) 41 A.R. 350 (QB)
    • Canada
    • Alberta Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta (Canada)
    • December 16, 1982
    ...526, appld. [para. 13]. Syme v. Canaven, [1918] V.L.R. 540; 25 C.L.R. 234, appld. [para. 14]. Thomas v. C.B.C., [1981] 4 W.W.R. 289; 27 A.R. 547, appld. [para. England v. C.B.C., [1979] 3 W.W.R. 193; 97 D.L.R.(3d) 472, appld. [para. 21]. Grubb v. Bristol United Press, [1963] 1 Q.B. 309, app......
  • Laufer v. Bucklaschuk, 1999 CanLII 5073 (MB CA)
    • Canada
    • Manitoba Court of Appeal (Manitoba)
    • October 7, 1999
    ...Publishing Co., [1972] N.Z.L.R. 83 (S.C.), refd to. [para. 31]. Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders, [1981] 4 W.W.R. 289; 27 A.R. 547 (N.W.T.S.C.), refd to. [para. Farrell v. St. John's Publishing Co. et al. (1982), 35 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 181; 99 A.P.R. 181 (Nfld. T.D.), refd......
  • Leenen v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. et al., (2000) 105 O.T.C. 91 (SC)
    • Canada
    • Ontario Superior Court of Justice of Ontario (Canada)
    • April 20, 2000
    ...Corp., [1982] 3 W.W.R. 97 (B.C.S.C.), refd to. [para. 126]. Thomas v. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Sanders, [1981] 4 W.W.R. 289; 27 A.R. 547 (N.W.T.S.C.), refd to. [para. O'Brien v. Salsbury (Marquis) (1889), 6 T.L.R. 133 (Q.B.), refd to. [para. 135]. Boland v. Globe and Mail, [1961] O.R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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