From: Ferrel Christensen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Professor sues The National Post for defamation
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Re: National Post article "Scandal taints fathers' rights group" (p. A8, April 17)
Several weeks ago, National Post columnist and reporter Donna Laframboise began contacting members of a volunteer divorce-reform group to which I belong. She told them she was preparing an expose' about (among other things) my views in an academic book published 11 years ago, views which she considered inappropriate for anyone in such an organization. Now, throughout the history of the group, no views in that book had ever been mentioned; they are wholly irrelevant to that organization. Much more importantly, her claim of inappropriateness was totally unfounded, based on gross misinterpretation of the text. Indeed, it was reliably reported to me that Ms. Laframboise had made or plainly insinuated a specific false claim about my views which would be legally slanderous.
My response was to engage a Toronto lawyer to fax an immediate message (March 23) to the editor-in-chief of The Post, threatening legal action if any article making or insinuating such claims should be published. Also, I attempted to cover all bases by sending the Post editor an anticipatory reply-article, one based on what the columnist had been saying to individuals, with this request: that a finalized version of that reply also be published, should they go ahead and print the article in a form they felt stopped short of libel.
After an agonizing wait, The Post published the lengthy article named above. Not only was the request for my side to be heard made in vain; the article contained false and misleading statements which malign my character. Behind those falsehoods lie instances of what I regard as unethical journalistic behavior. And though The Post backed off from the specific defamatory claim warned against, the following fact is clear: the only point of linking the book to my presence in an organization concerned about children's wellbeing was to insinuate that I am, or that my views are, some sort of threat to children.
Moreover, the distortions committed in the article carry that message openly; one of them is so extreme it can only be described as filthy and damnable. My lawyer (Charles Wagman of Toronto) certainly will not let me go into details in this public document, but I can disprove every falsehood and insinuation by Ms. Laframboise, and also prove details of her behavior which I believe reveal malice.
I can do so only if given the chance to speak, however. Such a grossly one-sided presentation represents censorship by the press. The National Post is saying, "We have control over what the public hears about you, and we will use that power any way we please." They indeed have such power; but no one has the moral right to harm and humiliate an innocent person. Nor, if there is any justice in Canada, has anyone the legal right.
Ordinary individuals, and little volunteer groups, do not have the resources to stand up to this overwhelming imbalance of power. For the sake of all such persons as well as my own, I will use my savings to seek legal redress. I have instructed my lawyer to commence action for defamation against the National Post and its reporter. I intend to seek a major punitive-damages award in court, to this end: setting up a trust fund to help ordinary people fight back when they are abused by unaccountable persons wielding the might of the media.
The National Post has often (and often rightly) editorialized against unethical behavior by others: "junk science" promoters, government officials, even other media outlets. The Post has recently been engaged in a campaign to expose Canada's Prime Minister for allegedly suppressing facts and manipulating people in a certain matter. I ask that other journalists investigate suppression and manipulation by The National Post.
Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta
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