Former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart awarded $100K to cover cost of fighting NPA defamation case
Judge rules defamation case brought against Stewart by former political rivals was a SLAPP suit
A B.C. judge has ruled former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart can recover the expenditure of more than $100,000 in legal costs related to a failed defamation case launched by political rivals in the once-dominant Non-Partisan Association.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Wendy Baker said in her March 20 ruling that the defamation case against Stewart by current and former members of the NPA's board of directors was a "strategic lawsuit against public participation," or a SLAPP suit.
A SLAPP lawsuit is a legal manoeuvre often used by the rich and powerful to intimidate, silence and/or bankrupt opponents. In 2019, B.C. passed anti-SLAPP legislation aimed at ensuring the protection of free public debate.
The NPA plaintiffs listed in the suit are David Mawhinney, Christopher Wilson, David Pasin, Phyllis Tang, Angelo Isidorou, Federico Fuoco and Wesley Mussio.
They sued Stewart after he issued a news release in January 2021 denouncing "hate and extremism'' in the NPA in response to media reports on the party's internal turmoil over an ideological shift to the right.
Baker's judgment says the defamation claims had "substantial merit,'' but found Stewart's statements "were not made with malice, and that Mr. Stewart was responding to news articles which had already put into the public arena the alleged hateful views of the NPA board."
Baker said the NPA board members also tried to strategically and inappropriately disqualify Stewart's lawyers from the case, increasing his legal costs.
The ruling says Stewart wanted damages, arguing the lawsuit was filed in bad faith for an improper purpose, but Baker said that awarding full costs addresses any harm the case may have caused.
with files from CBC News