Canadian Libel and Slander Actions

Article excerpt

Canadian Libel and Slander Actions. Roger D. McConchie and David A. Potts. Toronto, Canada: Irwin Law, 2004. 1,010 pp. $75 (Canada) pbk.

QUESTION: Do U.S. journalism educators and journalists need to know Canadian law?

ANSWER: Absolutely.

This is especially true when the U.S. Supreme Court is increasingly invoking foreign and international law in its decision making.

More important, the practical value of gaining familiarity with Canadian media law as a whole and Canadian libel law particularly helps U.S. journalists and news media avoid being sued in Canada. A real-life illustration is the ongoing libel case Bangoura v. Washington Post, in which the Washington Post asks the Ontario Court of Appeal to reverse a trial court's ruling. More than fifty media and media-related organizations in the United States, Canada, England, and other countries have urged the Ontario appellate court to address a key libel law issue in the era of global communication: When may a court exercise jurisdiction over a libel claim against a foreign medium based on stories originating from abroad but accessible online?

Canadian Libel and Slander Actions by leading Canadian libel lawyers Roger D. McConchie and David A. Potts comes amid growing debates about the interaction between U.S. and foreign law. As its title indicates, the book focuses primarily on Canadian law. Designed to serve as a road map on libel litigation in Canada, the thirty-seven-chapter book is exceedingly exhaustive. It examines nearly every libel law topic possible in Canada.

Some of the predictable topics covered in the book relate to the requisite elements for libel and slander actions, defenses against defamation lawsuits, and damages. Cyber-libel is discussed in several places. The book also deals with significant but often ignored subjects such as immunity of diplomats, foreign state and international organizations, and enforcement of foreign court judgments.

The book is mostly descriptive in that it restates statutory and case law in its present form. The authors could have better presented their case or statutory analysis if they had followed it with more succinct quotations. They might well have followed the advice of Bryan A. Garner, author of The Elements of Legal Style, who cogently exhorts: "Though you may be tempted to quote large chunks of others' writing to win your points, you drastically diminish the chances of having the material actually read."

Those who might turn to the Canadian libel book for comparative law will find it to be of limited value. …

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