News / Vancouver

B.C. salmon farm appeals defamation ruling

VANCOUVER - The defamation case between a British Columbia salmon-farming company and an outspoken critic appears to be far from over.

Mainstream Canada said Monday that it would appeal a September decision by a B.C. Supreme Court justice to dismiss a defamation case against Don Staniford, but only hours later the British-born activist responded, saying he'd fight the appeal.

At issue is a 2011 Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture campaign that included images of cigarette-like packages and statements such as "Salmon Farming Kills Like Smoking.''

Justice Elaine Adair dismissed the case in September in favour of Staniford's defence of fair comment, saying while his statements were defamatory and he was motivated by malice, the activist honestly believed in what he was saying and animosity wasn't his dominant purpose.

"While it is disappointing that she ruled against us on a technical legal issue, we will pursue this vigorously in the court of appeal," said David Wotherspoon, the company's lawyer in a statement.

The company also said that Adair's decision, if it stands, could compromise healthy debate on matters of public policy, and those debates should be based on fact, and critics should be accountable for their comments.

"Mainstream Canada and their parent company Cermaq have once again ignored the first rule of PR: when in a hole stop digging," said Staniford, in response to Mainstream's announcement Monday night.

"Cermaq's knee-jerk reaction to appeal is yet another case of this multi-million dollar company shooting itself in the foot. Common sense is clearly not a currency this Norwegian-owned multinational is used to dealing in."

Staniford, who was removed from Canada this past February for overstaying a visitor's permit, also repeated his plans to return to B.C. in March 2013, at which time he'll begin a speaking tour with Kurt Oddekalv, the leader of the Green Warriors of Norway.

The court action with Mainstream Canada is not the first faced by Staniford.

His first legal threat came from a Scottish salmon-farming company in 2001 but that never went to trial.

He also won a new trial that has yet to happen after appealing a defamation victory by B.C.'s Creative Salmon Company in 2007.

Staniford said last month the court case had cost him about $100,000 even with his lawyer, David Sutherland, working at a reduced rate, but Mainstream spokeswoman Laurie Jensen said the company had not yet tallied its costs.

More on Metronews.ca