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Guelph medical centre launches $6M lawsuit against couple after tweet alleges clinic 'hates gay pride'

The head of a Guelph medical imaging centre is suing a couple for $6 million, alleging they “maliciously hurt” the clinic and its owner by posting “false, negative tweets.” The couple calls their tweets true and justified, and wants the lawsuit thrown out. Warning: This story contains offensive language.

Allegations have not been proven in court

A statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court seeks $5 million in general damages and $1 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages from a Guelph couple, alleging Twitter posts 'maliciously hurt' a medical imaging clinic. (Jasmin Seputis/CBC)

Warning: This story contains offensive language.

The head of a Guelph medical imaging business is suing a couple for $6 million, alleging in a statement of claim that they "maliciously hurt" the clinic and its owner by posting "false, negative tweets."

The lawsuit was filed in Ontario Superior Court on behalf of Probhash Mondal and 2345171 Ontario Inc., operating as Guelph Medical Imaging (GMI). It seeks $5 million in general damages and $1 million in punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages from Stephanie and Kathryn Evans-Bitten. 

The couple's defence statement calls their tweets true and justified, and says the lawsuit should be thrown out.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The statement of claim alleges Stephanie has a "personal animus" toward Mondal. It points to a tweet from October 2020 from Stephanie that says:

"I'm sad that I have to travel outside my hometown of Guelph Ontario to receive medical imaging care because the CEO of our monopolized imaging healthcare here calls people 'trannies' and hates gay pride."

In 2021, the claim said, she also posted: "The CEO of GMI also runs 'UBIMICO' [sic] and likes to post homophobic content like this....

The statement of defence says Mondal runs the Guelph Medical Imaging (GMI) Twitter account and an account for UBMICO (the United Brotherhood of Medical Imaging Clinics of Ontario).

In court documents, the plaintiffs say Stephanie posted "multiple additional defamatory" comments in 2021. The claim alleges Kathryn is vicariously liable for her wife's behaviour.

The defendants, however, say Kathryn was not involved in the tweets and there is no reason to include her in the lawsuit.

Clinic owner's tweets called 'highly charged' 

In court documents, the defendants say Stephanie noticed in 2019 that Mondal was using the Twitter account for GMI and UBMICO to post "highly charged, inflammatory and discriminatory political messages."

After Stephanie challenged Mondal on Twitter, the statement of defence says, he "unleashed a tirade of abuse" on her from both his professional accounts. She ultimately blocked his professional accounts and decided to seek medical imaging from other clinics going forward, according to the statement of defence.  

The Twitter accounts for Guelph Medical Imaging, United Brotherhood of Medical Imaging Clinics of Ontario and Stephanie Evans-Bitten have all been protected amid the lawsuit. (The Associated Press)

In June this year, Stephanie posted on Twitter that:

"This #PrideMonth2021, I want to remind #Guelph leaders that gay residents in the city are being forced to seek healthcare diagnostics in other cities, because Guelph Medical Imaging is owned and lead [sic] by a man who thinks and tweets this stuff:"

According to the statement of defence, Stephanie's tweet included copies of three of Mondal's tweets in which:

  • Mondal criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for waving a rainbow flag during a Pride parade, saying, "Please do not defile our flag."
  • Mondal wrote, in response to news that the mayor of Toronto had attended a drag show: "Where's the tranny, @JohnTory's got some benjamins for your thong!!!"
  • Mondal is shown posing with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

The statement of defence notes Mondal was critical of the 2015 education curriculum, which included LGBTQ topics and was later repealed by the Ford government.

Anti-SLAPP motion 

The statement of defence said Stephanie's statements are true and justified, and do not amount to libel, slander or defamation.

"The June 11 tweet was in no way defamatory," it says. "Ms. Evans-Bitten was drawing attention to statements that the plaintiffs had actually, publicly made. If there was any reputational harm, it was caused by Mr. Mondal himself, by tweeting inappropriate anti-LGBTQ messages from his professional Twitter accounts."

Stephanie's lawyer, Marcus McCann, said his clients have filed a motion under Ontario's anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) legislation, which bars legal action when the purpose is to shut down expression of issues in the public interest.

A court date to hear the motion has been set for February. 

Mondal's lawyer, Kevin Sherkin, said he will not comment on a matter that is before the court.

At the time of publication of this story, the Twitter accounts for Guelph Medical Imaging, United Brotherhood of Medical Imaging Clinics of Ontario and Stephanie Evans-Bitten had all been protected.

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