Today Ontario’s Court of Appeal ruled against me and sided with Khurrum Awan, the former youth president of the Canadian Islamic Congress who sued me more than seven years ago.
You can read the full court ruling here.
I’m worried that this ruling sets a precedent, and it is now legally dangerous to call out an anti-Semite as anti-Semitic. Let me explain.
As you know, Awan was the former youth president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. And one of the reasons I lost was that the trial judge ruled that calling Awan an anti-Semite was defamatory.
But here’s why I had said it: Awan used to be the youth president of an anti-Semitic group — the Canadian Islamic Congress, which was led by a notorious anti-Semite, named Mohamed Elmasry. Elmasry went on TV to declare that any adult in Israel is a legitimate target for terrorism. You can see that video clip here:
And yet the trial judge ruled that it was defamatory for me to call their former youth president anti-Semitic. Because Awan denied he was an anti-Semite in court, and said he never knew about his organization's infamous misconduct. Awan said he wasn’t anti-Semitic, and the judge ruled I did not prove it was factually true.
Even though Awan himself testified at trial that he agreed it's reasonable for people to call certain statements by the Islamic Congress anti-Semitic.
That trial was in 2014. So I appealed — it cost me more than $30,000 dollars. And today, the Ontario Court of Appeal came out with their ruling.
The three judge panel — led by a Jewish judge, Kathryn Feldman — upheld the trial decision against me, and the $80,000 judgement, plus the $70,000 cost penalty, plus $15,000 more for the appeal. So $165,000 dollars — all for a Muslim activist who never told the court that he lost a single penny because of my comments.
Now, maybe you think that’s fine — it’s just me, I’m a big mouth. I dish it out, so I should take it.
But let me read to you a passage in the Court of Appeal’s ruling. And put yourself in the shoes of, say, a Jewish student on campus, being faced with anti-Semites like Mohamed Elmasry every day.
The Court of Appeal actually said the trial judge got something wrong — they agreed with me that calling the Islamic Congress anti-Semitic was an expression of my opinion; I didn’t have to prove it as some sort of scientific fact like the trial judge said.
But then the Court of Appeal wrote that Awan "pled malice. Based on the record, the trial judge concluded that the appellant transferred his animosity toward Dr. Elmasry to the respondent.”
As in, because I had hard feelings and animosity towards Mohamed Elmasry, that’s what the trial judge called malice. And she said I directed those feelings to Awan, so my defence of fair comment was thrown out.
So let me put that in plain English. If you campaign against anti-Semitism, and if you have hard feelings and animosity towards anti-Semites like Mohamed Elmasry — the Court of Appeal says those hard feelings and animosity take away your right to make a fair comment if they are directed at others associated with them.
So if you see a vicious anti-Semite like Mohamed Elmasry on TV, justifying the murder of Israelis, and if you feel ill-will towards him, and you call him an anti-Semite or something like it because of that feeling, get ready to pay him $165,000 dollars, because the courts could say you’re malicious — towards him, or if you feel that way about people associated with him.
I’ll never shut up, of course. But what about a young kid on campus? The Court of Appeal has a simple message for them: keep quiet about anti-Semites — especially about the worst of them. Or face a huge lawsuit.
Obviously we’ve got to keep fighting this. I’m going to apply for leave to appeal this to the Supreme Court of Canada. That’s not automatic — we have to apply for the right to appeal there. My lawyer says that will cost approximately $10,000 dollars. We have to continue.
We just can’t let this precedent stand.
Imagine not being able to use the word anti-Semitic to describe activists with anti-Semitic groups.
If you share my belief that we cannot let this ruling stand, please help me cover the costs of applying to the Supreme Court.