The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against Langley residents who had spoken up about their concerns over a large landfill application in Aldergrove.
In a decision handed down May 25 the Honourable Madam Justice Bruce dismissed all claims made by Robin Scory against the Glen Valley Watershed Society (GVWS) and Sian Krannitz. The case was heard May 3 in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack.
Scory had launched the suit after applying to deposit a large amount of fill on his land at 7306 – 264 Street. He had made a claim for $5.5 million against each of GVWS and Kranntiz, as well as $2 million claim against Jack Dewitte.
Dewitte’s argument for dismissal was heard separately and a judgment has not yet been issued in his case.
Concerned the proposed fill would erode into fish-bearing streams, Krannitz and GVWS spokesperson Joan Martin voiced their reservations to various levels of government last year.
When the project was put on hold by the Township of Langley for further review, Scory sued GVWS and two citizens for speaking out against the project, claiming they had, among other things, defamed him.
The ruling states that the judge found no evidence to back the lawsuit, adding that the “claimant has greatly exaggerated the statements made by the respondents and has fabricated other allegations concerning their conduct and statements.”
GVWS was represented by Ecojustice lawyers Tim Leadem and Jennifer Agnolin, who said in a joint statement that the ruling “confirms the public’s right to speak up when the environment is put in jeopardy.”
“This case is a clear statement that meritless lawsuits against people who speak up for the environment will not stand,” said Agnolin.
“Citizens are the best keepers of their local environment,” Agnolin said. “They have the right to freely to speak up about projects they think will harm their environment without fear of being sued. This decision protects that right.”
In her ruling Madam Bruce said, “…it was not the acts of the respondents that prevented the claimant from creating farmland out of his property. The decision to issue a permit for the fill deposit rested with the Township of Langley and the Agricultural Land Commission. The respondents could not prevent these government bodies from issuing a permit to the claimant if he satisfied all of their requirements. The respondents merely exercised their right of free speech to voice objections to the proposal. There was nothing objectionable or unlawful about their conduct in this regard.”
The judge concluded that, “The claimant’s notice of claim must therefore be dismissed with costs to the respondents.”
However, Agnolin told The Star Thursday that Scory filed an appeal of the judgment on the same day it was issued, and the respondents now have to await a decision on this application.
Scory has also filed a suit in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver claiming “unreasonable delays and unnecessary expenses” regarding his landfill application by Langley Township and two municipal employees, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the provincial Ministry of Environment and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In April a Vancouver judge dismissed the lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment and ordered Scory to pay $250 towards costs.
The other defendants have also applied to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The full text of the judgment is at: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/11/06/2011BCSC0674.htm