The libel suit against the Northern Alliance of London is seen as an unusual step.
An Ottawa lawyer has taken the unusual step of suing a London white supremacist group for libel, signalling a change in tactics for human rights groups. “I’m unaware of anyone else suing a group of this nature for libel either here in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada,” said Richard Warman, a Canadian Human Rights Commission lawyer who’s personally suing the Northern Alliance of London.
Traditionally, many people have ignored such groups hoping they’ll go away, said Debbie Lee, spokesperson for the Association for the Elimination of Hate, London.
“You don’t want to engage these groups. You are certainly giving them a forum to air their views. “
But people are starting to stand up for themselves, she said.
“It is an example people are getting tired.”
The London anti-hate group has thrown its moral support behind Warman.
He’s seeking $10,000 in damages from the Northern Alliance of London.
Warman works for the human rights commission, but he stressed his lawsuit has nothing to do with the commission.
“It is regarding defamatory material they posted against me. The price of human rights is eternal vigilance,” Warman said.
Northern Alliance leader Jason Ouwendyk said his group will defend the statements.
“It is an essential . . . battle for free speech,” he said.
The Northern Alliance bills itself on its Web site as “an advocacy group that is devoted to promoting freedom of speech and expression. We are also dedicated to the protection and advancement of the rights of Canadians of European descent.”
The group opposes immigration from non-European countries, foreign aid, same-sex marriages and interracial marriages.
Its Web site included a page called Enemies of Free Speech, according to Warman’s statement of claim.
Warman’s name and photograph were put on that list on June 21 and he was referred to as a “misguided witchhunter,” says the claim.
The Web page also links Warman to the Communist party by using the “universal symbol” of communism, a hammer and sickle, beside the title, Enemies of Free Speech, the claim alleges.
It also puts his name under a headline, Freedom Suppressors.
The words on the Web site suggest Warman committed unconstitutional acts, such as suppressing free speech, and engages in discreditable activity, the claim says.
The Web site harms Warman’s personal and professional reputation and livelihood, the claim alleges.
The Northern Alliance will fight the lawsuit on the basis its statements were true and fair comment because Warman is a public figure, Ouwendyk said.
Besides his work with the commission, Warman has run for public office, Ouwendyk said.
Ouwendyk acknowledged some facts of the case.
“We had a page called Enemies of Free Speech. He was listed on that page,” Ouwendyk said.
In its statement of defence, the Northern Alliance said it is involved with “an obscure Web site” that would unlikely have visits from Warman’s professional associates.
As for Warman’s job, the Canadian Human Rights Commission “submits rulings that are considered by many to be the suppression of free speech.”
Therefore his reputation cannot be harmed by the Web site, the defence claims.