Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa — Alberta’s superior court today dismissed attempts by former Premier Jason Kenney and the Alberta government to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought forward by five environmental groups. Environmental Defence, West Coast Environmental Law, Dogwood Initiative, Stand.earth and the Wilderness Committee are suing former Premier Jason Kenney and the Alberta government for lying about the findings of his Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns. Over two years, groups and individuals were named publicly and targeted on social media, causing some individuals to receive death threats.
“Truth matters in a democracy, and today’s court decision makes clear that the former Alberta Premier specifically targeted environmental organizations to undermine our efforts to communicate the risks of climate change, and the role an expanding oil industry plays in threatening the future of Canadians,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.
Former Alberta Premier Kenney tried to argue that he wasn’t referring to the groups specifically, but the court rejected that argument, writing, “Considering the Key Findings Document as a whole, the publication leads any reasonable person to understand that the alleged defamatory statements refer to campaigns of which the Plaintiffs who appear on the list of participants were part.”
“Anyone who looks at the report or Kenney’s other public statements would know he was referring to our clients,” said Paul Champ, the lawyer for the five defamed groups. “The Court agreed, ruling that Mr. Kenney was trying to escape liability by hiding behind technical arguments that were unrealistic and baseless. Albertans are smarter than that.”
Groups contended that statements in the Alberta government’s “Key Findings” document, which were subsequently repeated and amplified by Premier Kenney on social media platforms, were defamatory as they claimed the Inquiry concluded that the environmental groups had deliberately spread “misinformation” about the Alberta oil and gas industry. In his final report of the Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, Commissioner Steve Allan was unequivocal in his report that he made no such finding, noting environmental groups did nothing wrong, but simply care about climate change.
“Jason Kenney wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on a personal vendetta that backfired. Albertans are still paying for his lawyers as he tries to dodge responsibility for what he said. The sooner he apologizes and retracts his defamatory statements, the sooner we can all move on from this sorry chapter,” said Kai Nagata, Communication Director of Dogwood BC.
“We wasted months as targets of the so-called public inquiry; now we've wasted more time on Jason Kenney's bizarre argument that his false statements about the inquiry's findings weren't about us. Hopefully, this will be the end of these defamatory distractions so we can focus on our work to address the climate and biodiversity crises and uphold Indigenous rights," said Jessica Clogg, Executive Director & Senior Counsel for West Coast Environmental Law.
The defamed groups have asked Kenney and the Alberta government to retract their statements and issue public apologies. To date, former Premier Kenney and Danielle Smith’s government have refused.
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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Champ, Human Rights Lawyer, (613) 816-2441
Jessica Clogg, Executive Director, West Coast Environmental Law, (604) 601-2501
Sven Biggs, Stand.earth, Canadian Oil and Gas Programs Director, (778) 882-8354
Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner, Wilderness Committee (778) 239-1935
Kai Nagata, Communications Director, Dogwood BC, (778) 829-6493