By Laura Steiner
A Milton Superior Court judge has dismissed a $16 million defamation lawsuit involving a local woman and a former federal Liberal candidate while accepting the plaintiff’s $1.5m malicious prosecution claim.
In a 34 page judgement released late Wednesday (June 28), Justice Dale Fitzpatrick granted Stacey Newman’s request to reject the claim of defamation. Fitzpatrick upheld the malicious prosecution claim related to Newman’s attempts to get a peace bond against Rizvee.
The pair had filed the defamation lawsuit against Newman in March 2016 that sought general, special and punitive damages after statements they believe to be defamatory were made during Rizvee’s unsuccessful bid for federal office in 2015.
The judge dismissed allegations of the defamation were covered under the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPA) because they were in the public interest.
The P.P.P.A. was introduced by the Ontario government in 2015. It’s designed to stop lawsuits that brought to silence people from speaking up on issues of public interest.
The judgment stated that in his capacity as Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) candidate, Mr. Rizvee was a public figure. It was for that reason, Newman’s comments were declared in the public interest.
Rizvee & Azim’s lawyer Laughlin Campbell disagrees. “As interpreted in this case, there is a very real danger that the law can also be used as a shield behind which persons can hide, and wantonly defame public figures with impunity, as we believe has happened in this case,” Campbell said in a statement.
Their claims date back to events surrounding the Liberal Party of Canada’s nomination meeting on July 11, 2015, as well as social media, and blog posts dating to December, 2015. Newman supported Rizvee’s opponent Town Councilor Zeeshan Hamid, who was also mentioned several times in the Wednesday’s judgment.
However, even as the defamation lawsuit is dismissed, the court is keeping Rizvee’s malicious prosecution claim alive. But, Judge Fitzpatrick said he makes “no comment on the merits of this claim, the likely success of the claim at trial or whether it would survive a summary judgment motion.”
Newman’s lawyer was pleased according to local media reports.
But Rizvee’s lawyer worries over the future. “We are very concerned with the threshold this decision appears to set for public figures to protect their character.” Rizvee, and Dr. Azim are said to be considering their options, while reviewing the decision.