Originally posted on National Post | Full Comment:
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The issue is whether the words are defamatory of the plaintiff. To decide this issue, I must assume for the sake of analysis that the words were spoken about the plaintiff, despite my conclusion to the contrary….
The reasonable person, having read fairly all of the defendant’s assertions in the article in issue, both quoted statements and accurate paraphrasing, likely would have understood him to have said:
1. I sense or suspect corruption in Tuggs Inc.’s deal with the City
2. However, I’m unable to say that anyone did anything wrong
3. My sense or suspicion of corruption is based on the Tuggs deal having been considered by the city “in camera”
4. In camera meetings are where more corruption and skullduggery goes on than I’ve ever seen
5. However, I don’t know what actually took place
Point 2 is, in my view, what the reasonable person would have understood from the defendant’s statement “I can’t accuse anyone …” read in context. Point 5, I conclude, is what the reasonable person would have understood from the defendant’s statement “… I can’t pinpoint it …”, seen in the light of the rest of the reported statements that the defendant merely sensed or suspected corruption but “can’t” accuse anyone of it. Again, the words “I can’t …” would have been reasonably understood as meaning “I am not able to …”, a confession of the defendant’s inability to say that anyone did anything wrong….