Don Staniford, an environmental activist, published mock cigarette packs on his blog, which bore warning labels like ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ as well as references to Norwegian ownership. Mainstream, a Norwegian-owned fish-farming operation, sued him for defamation. Adair J found that the material was defamatory and that it referred to Mainstream, but also accepted Staniford’s defence of fair comment: even though she found him ‘severely prejudiced’ and ‘exaggerated and obstinate’ in his views about salmon farming, he honestly believed what he said. Noting that evidence of express malice will defeat a defence of fair comment, she nevertheless found that Staniford (while clearly malicious) did not have the dominant purpose of injuring Mainstream – his main objective was to campaign against industrial aquaculture, however ‘clumsy, crude, irrational or foolish’ his tactics: Mainstream Canada v Staniford, 2012 BCSC 1433. Mainstream’s action was dismissed, but an appeal has been filed. Where Staniford skated close to the line on the malice point was in his treatment of two of Mainstream’s witnesses, a point dealt with separately in Mainstream Canada v Staniford, 2102 BCSC 1609. Staniford suggested in a blog posting during the trial that appropriate theme music for the witnesses would be Queen’s 1978 hit ‘Fat-bottomed Girls’. Mainstream’s counsel asked Adair J to direct Staniford to refrain from making such references, and while she declined to do so given that the degree of Staniford’s malice was a live issue in the ongoing trial, she quoted some stern words of Lord Denning that ‘there can be no greater contempt to intimidate a witness before he gives his evidence or to victimize him afterwards for having given it’: Attorney-General v Butterworth, [1962] 3 All ER 326 (CA).  

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