Calgary judge rejects injunction against African trophy hunt protesters

A hunting advocacy group has lost its bid for an injunction against Calgary protesters at this year's Africa trophy hunting trade show.

Judge ordered a Facebook post removed, calling it defamatory

About 30 Calgarians protested a trophy hunting expo last year, chanting and holding signs outside a northeast hotel. (CBC)

A hunting advocacy group has lost its bid for an injunction against Calgary protesters at this year's Africa trophy hunting trade show.

The Calgary chapter of Safari Club International argued demonstrations at the 2016 event went beyond what's reasonable. They wanted a judge to order a protest group called Ban African Trophy Hunting — along with organizer Mike Donovan —  to stop hurling abuse and derogatory statements at hunters and attendees.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Neufeld didn't grant the injunction in a decision that pleased Donovan.

"I understand there's rules in Canada. You just can't say anything, anytime, under any circumstance. There are rules. But when it's free speech on a matter that concerns the public interest, there's no way the courts should be used as a tool to try to shut people up," Donovan told CBC News on Thursday.

He said the injunction application was meant to intimidate and silence him, describing it as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP.

Mike Donovan, shown with his wife Maryanne, said an injunction would have trampled his right to free speech. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

"They slap these injunctions on organizations, knowing they're going to lose. But they burden the people like ourselves with time and money, and they try to take away your time and money so you don't spend the time and money criticizing them."

'We felt it was our duty'

​The Calgary chapter of Safari Club International had a booth at The African Show — an event organized by African Events Inc., which promotes African travel and hunting. 

The chapter's president, David Little, says attendees were intimidated and harassed and even though their application was denied, it was important to try.

David Little, president of Safari Club International in Calgary, wanted the judge to grant an injunction, arguing attendees of a hunting event were intimidated and harassed. (Natasha Frakes/CBC)

"It was just the language and the ignorance of the information that they were spreading was offensive and incorrect. And so we felt it was our duty to support hunters and hunting and bring the truth out and in a way we've had an opportunity to do that."

The judge agreed messaging on the Ban African Trophy Hunting's Facebook page about the trade show was defamatory and ordered the founder to take the post down and Donovan has complied.

Little says his group will once again be at this year's show holding different events to promote hunting and he expects there will be more hunters attending than in the past.

With files from Diane Yanko