Friday, 14 January 2011

Supreme Court of Canada to Hear "Libel Freeze" Case of Ecosociété vs. Barrick Gold

One way to get critics to shut up is to try them to death. That is, in classic David vs. Golialth fashion a company with deep pockets can institute legal proceedings against a smaller player which doesn't have the means to defend itself. The result too often is that the challenger goes broke, and other people or groups are scared off from raising embarassing question.

Barrick Gold has been after the Quebec publisher Ecosociété since 2008 when the small house put out Noir Canada : pillage, corruption et criminalité en Africa, The mining giant filed libel prooceedings in Ontario, whose laws are different from those of Quebec. The maneuver has meant that Ecosociété's resources are strained since it has to pay for a legal team in the other province. Furthermore, were the case tried in Quebec, it could come over that province's legislation aimed at countering libel freeze.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear Ecosociété's request to have the case heard in Quebec. There's no guarantee that the court will allow the transfer, but the fact that it will decide will clarify the rules of the game, and just might make it harder for the big guys to intimidate the small ones.

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