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Media & Defamation

Media & Defamation
Media & Defamation

Blakes is recognized as having one of Canada’s pre-eminent media, defamation and free-expression practices. The Blakes Media & Defamation group represents leading Canadian newspapers and broadcasters, as well as American and international media, book publishers, community newspapers and non-media parties in defamation and free-expression matters. Foreign and domestic clients rely on our comprehensive grasp of nuanced legal issues, our 24-hour accessibility and our ability to respond in real time to questions and to provide pre-publication advice.

Traditional concepts of media and free speech have changed dramatically since the advent of the internet and online platforms. This has created new defamation risks and complex issues related to damage to reputation and invasion of privacy, all on a global scale. Conflicting laws, jurisdictional complexities and different legal standards create challenging legal issues. Blakes regularly advises a variety of clients on how to navigate and litigate these cutting-edge issues.
Major media companies regularly engage us to advise them about libel and defamation laws in Canada, privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, publication bans and sealing orders, copyright, social media litigation, electronic media, and access-to-information issues. We have been involved in many of the most important media litigation cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in the past two decades. Among other things, we persuaded the court to adopt a new defence to libel, responsible communication in the public interest. We also have extensive hearing and appeal experience and have brought constitutional challenges related to a range of free-expression and openness matters.
Our clients include the Toronto Star, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, BuzzFeed and many others. We have also acted for American and international media, such as the Washington PostThe New York Times, The Associated Press and Ha’aretz, as well as book publishers like Penguin Random House.

Recent Experience
  • Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. and Kevin Donovan v. Sherman Estates (2020) – Successfully represented the Toronto Star in a new precedent-setting case on openness and privacy before the Supreme Court of Canada, relating to unsealing the Barry and Honey Sherman estate files for public view.

  • Boyle v. Ontario Medical Association et al. (2019) – Successfully represented a reporter and newspaper to the door of the Supreme Court of Canada about the issue of the right to access names of doctors billing the public-health-care plan.

  • Reference by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada relating to the “right to be forgotten” (2019) – Acted for the coalition of major Canadian media in a motion for intervention.

  • Belinda Stronach v. Frank StronachActed for Belinda Stronach in a defamation claim related to public statements by Frank Stronach.

  • Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Ontario (2019) – Successfully challenged the constitutionality of legislation that limited access to tribunal records, on behalf of the Toronto Star.

  • Media Coalition v. HMQ Ontario (2019) – Unsealed search warrant materials in the police investigations that led to charges against Bruce McArthur, on behalf of a coalition of major Canadian media.

  • R. v. Vice Media Canada Inc. (2018) – Represented a coalition of international media and free-expression organizations before the Supreme Court of Canada, in which the court set out the framework governing applications by police for search warrants and production orders of media organizations.

  • R. v. New York Times, et al. (2018) – Represented media organizations in seeking to unseal the search warrants relating to the Danforth shooting.

  • Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc. (2018) – Two sets of Blakes counsel represented two groups of interveners, a Reporters Committee-led coalition of U.S.-based media organizations and non-profits, and a coalition of international human-rights and free-expression organizations. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a worldwide injunction requiring Google Inc. to globally de-index certain websites.

  • Goldhar v et al. (2018) – Successfully represented Israeli-based Haaretz newspaper before the Supreme Court of Canada in a case concerning internet jurisdiction and the alleged defamation of Canadian businessman Mitchell Goldhar.

  • John v. Ballingall et al. (2017) – Successfully represented the Toronto Star in a case in which the Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that an online newspaper is still a “newspaper” for the purposes of the notice and limitation provisions in the Libel and Slander Act. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was denied.

  • A.B. v. Bragg Communications (2012) – Acted for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in an appeal where the Supreme Court of Canada decided issues involving social media, open courts and privacy rights.

  • Crookes v. Newton (2011) – Represented the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in this Supreme Court of Canada case that limited liability for hyperlinks.

  • Bou Malhab v. Diffusion Métromédia CMR inc. (2011) – Represented a media coalition group of interveners before the Supreme Court of Canada in which the court limited actions for group libel.

  • Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. v. Canada (2010) – Acted for the Toronto Star, including before the Supreme Court of Canada, in a case relating to the constitutionality of mandatory publication bans.

  • Ontario (Public Safety and Security) v. Criminal Lawyers' Association (2010) – Acted for two sets of interveners, a media coalition and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, before the Supreme Court of Canada in which the court considered the right of access to information.​

  • Grant v. Torstar (2009) – Successfully represented the Toronto Star in this case in which the Supreme Court of Canada adopted a new libel defence relating to responsible communication in the public interest.

  • R. v. Toronto Star (2005) – Represented the Toronto Star in this leading Supreme Court of Canada decision on open courts and the test for discretionary sealing orders.  

  • R. v. Mentuck (2001) – Acted for the intervener, Canadian Newspaper Association, in this leading Supreme Court of Canada decision on open courts and the test for discretionary sealing orders.

Awards & Recognition

Blakes Media & Defamation lawyers have been recognized as leaders in their field by various surveys including:

  • The Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

  • The Lexpert Guide to the Leading US/Canada Cross-border Litigation Lawyers in Canada

  • Legal Media Group's Guide to the World's Leading Technology, Media & Telecommunications Lawyers

  • Benchmark Canada: The Definitive Guide to Canada's Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys