In light of Councillor Michael Thompson’s upcoming motion, I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my opinion on aspects of the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation) lawsuit and ruling.
1. Regarding the recent statement by Councillor Ballard referring to “those responsible for allowing possible defaming postings on the Aurora Citizen blog”:
a) On July 20, 2011, Superior Court Justice Carole Brown found that Morris had “failed to identify the specific words alleged to be defamatory” in the six postings she submitted in her statement of claim.
b) In her ruling, Justice Brown wrote “It is not the role of the Court to parse the impugned articles and blogs before it to attempt to determine, by divination or divine inspiration, which statements it should assess“.
There is no “possible” about it. She was unable to prove defamation.
2. In a recent letter to The Auroran; “Costs were awarded against Ms. Morris on account of that action (the lawsuit) having been judged procedurally incorrect”:
a) On October 27, 2012, Master Thomas Hawkins ruled that: “Morris has offered no evidence as to why she discontinued this action (the lawsuit). In that situation I regard Johnson and Hogg as successful defendants, entitled to the costs of defending this action“.
This is not a procedural error; she dropped the lawsuit, and the defendants won. That’s why she has to pay up.
Councillor Ballard goes on to make the assertion that “the community has had enough with the matter”. While I am certain the Councillor, along with a small bitter group in our town are desperate to have us forget about this egregious action, let me share with you why I feel we must not.
It could have been any one of us. This time, Morris pulled the names Johnson, Hogg, and Bishenden. Rather than seek to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the matter, Morris instead lobbed a six-million-dollar cluster bomb into the lives of three innocent families. Master Hawkins wrote “Morris was not prepared to wait and see if a demand letter would have the desired effect“, and that she “wanted to hit Johnson, Hogg, and Bishenden quickly and hard, in order to silence them as her critics“. So she moved swiftly to secure enough council votes to launch her assault, and did so funding it with town money. Meaning, as an Aurora taxpayer, Morris used my money in an attempt to deliver a lethal blow to my neighbours, and threaten my right to free speech.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that, and not a day goes by that I don’t think that it could happen again.
Through the landmark and precedent-setting rulings of Justice Brown and Master Hawkins, we have confirmation of what many had suspected; that the Morris lawsuit was without any merit whatsoever.
Facing these hard facts, Councillor Ballard is now attempting to defend his old friend. His frantic and ultimately fruitless attempt to have Councillor Thompson’s motion
Councillors Gallo and Gaertner, who voted in favour of the initial motion which lit the fuse on that bomb, were nevertheless presented with the opportunity to redeem some measure of their integrity when the motion to cease taxpayer funding of the lawsuit was tabled. But they, along with Councillor Ballard voted against this motion, telling us that while they were aware three Aurora families were suffering both emotionally and financially as a result of Morris’ town-funded lawsuit, they were still in favour of using our tax money to continue its funding.
When these three Councillors swore their oath of office, they promised to first protect the interests of the town and its citizens. Again, from Master Hawkins ruling, “Morris brought this action expressly in her capacity as Mayor of the Corporation of the Town of Aurora“, and, “had access to Aurora municipal money to fund this litigation“. The fact that these three continue to defend the actions of the ex-Mayor leaves me stunned.
Through their actions, Councillors Ballard, Gallo, and Gaertner have failed in the most basic and important trust they hold as our elected representatives. I believe they haven’t earned the right to seek that honour from the electorate again (SLAPP).
They may want us all to forget about the SLAPP lawsuit, and the roles they all played in it. The families of Richard Johnson, Bill Hogg, and Elizabeth Bishenden will certainly never forget, and as their neighbours and fellow Aurorans, neither should we.