MP Maurice Vellacott wins defamation lawsuit

Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott has won a defamation lawsuit.

Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott has won a defamation lawsuit.

Vellacott , who represents the Saskatoon-Wanuskewin riding, has been awarded $5,000 by a Court of Queen's bench judge who found that he had been defamed in 2006.

The case goes back to the 2006 federal election.

On Jan. 17 of that year, Vellacott was a guest on a live televised debate on the Shaw cable community channel when he was accused of sexual assault during a call-in portion of the debate.

George Laliberte called from a Liberal campaign office and asked Vellacott if he sexually assaulted a secretary at North Park Church.

Vellacott says he had never worked out of that church and had never been accused of sexual assault.

But as a result of the defamatory statement, he lost sleep, experienced stress and was worried he'd lose the 2006 election because of the loss of reputation, Vellacott said in his statement of claim.

Justice Martel Popescul said even though Laliberte asked a question, rather than made a statement, it was still defamatory and there was no factual basis behind it.

"Falsely accusing someone of being charged with sexual assault is reprehensible," Popescul said in the 16-page decision.

The judge noted it was difficult to say how many people were watching the broadcast on the cable channel.

"Presumably some people were watching. But how many? Fifty? Five hundred? 50,000?"

While Vellacott had sought additional damages, he failed to prove Laliberte was motivated by actual malice, Popescul said.

Even so, the $5,000 award is appropriate, he said.

"Being held liable to pay $5,000 for one comment made on a cable television program ought to be sufficient to achieve the goal of deterrence," Popescul said.