A Falun Gong practitioner who claimed the Chinese deputy consul-general in Toronto defamed him by calling him a member of a “sinister cult” designed to “instigate hatred” has won a lawsuit and recognition that he was personally attacked.
Joel Chipkar, a vocal supporter of the Falun Gong practice, began to weep yesterday as Mr. Justice Harvey Spiegel told a packed courtroom that the Toronto businessman was libelled in a letter to the editor authored by Pan Xinchun. The letter appeared in the Star on April 25, 2003.
With his wife Cecilia at his side, Chipkar smiled and bowed to the judge following the ruling in a University Ave. courtroom. As the court hearing ended, about 50 spectators, all members of the spiritual discipline, clapped and congratulated the couple.
No one attended court on behalf of Pan or his office to offer a defence to the allegations in the lawsuit. Because Pan chose not to defend the case, the allegations, by default, were accepted as admissions by Pan.
The judge concluded Pan was not acting in an official capacity at the time, so he could not be granted diplomatic immunity, court was told.
Pan’s letter to the editor was in response to a letter Chipkar had published in the newspaper during last spring’s SARS crisis in Toronto. In his letter, Chipkar said Canada “continues to avoid publicly condemning China for its irresponsibility, its corruption and its blatant disregard for basic human standards.”
In his response, which appeared in the paper the next day, Pan said, “While the world is resolutely combating SARS, Chipkar and Falun Gong busy themselves taking advantage of the SARS crisis and politicizing it by confounding it with so-called human rights and trade. Their hidden purpose is to instigate hatred and confrontations between China and Canada, which can only expose their true nature as a sinister cult.”
Chipkar was told if he wanted to seek substantial financial damages, the case would have to be adjourned to another date. “This is not about money. It’s about the principle,” his lawyer, Peter Downard, told the judge. Chipkar was awarded $1,000, plus his legal costs.