Edmonton Griesbach MP Kerry Diotte has threatened a young writer and former constituent with a defamation lawsuit for tweeting critical comments about his appearance in photos with Faith Goldy, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor of Toronto who is widely viewed as a white nationalist.
The Nov. 5 letter from Arthur Hamilton, a prominent lawyer long associated with the Conservative Party of Canada, calls statements made on Twitter by Mr. Mohamed “inflammatory and untrue” and says “Mr. Diotte requires an immediate retraction of this tweet, and any similar statements which you have published or broadcast.”
“In the absence of your immediate action to remedy this circumstance, and effect a full retraction on or before 5:00 p.m. MST, Wednesday November 7, 2018, Mr. Diotte will initiate proceedings without notice to you.”
“Govern yourself accordingly,” the letter concluded.
Three other young people from Edmonton who retweeted or commented on Mr. Mohamed’s original tweet have reported receiving similar letters from Mr. Diotte’s legal counsel, Mr. Mohamed said.
The copy of the letter from Mr. Mohamed’s lawyer posted in response said, “Mr. Mohamed specifically disputes the assertion that the tweets referenced are inflammatory and untrue, and that they constitute libel or slander.”
“Mr. Diotte is a Member of Parliament, a public figure, who in the past has posed with Ms. Faith Goldy … a renowned white nationalist and racist, in photos that he himself has posted on social media,” the letter continues.
The letter says that Mr. Mohamed has noted Mr. Diotte has failed to distance himself from “dangerous ideologies” such as that of Ms. Goldy. “Based on these facts, Mr. Mohamed, in the impugned tweets, draws and expresses the reasonable opinion that Mr. Diotte himself supports these views …”
Noting that Mr. Mohamed is a former constituent of Mr. Diotte, the letter continues to say that, “considering the circumstances, Mr. Mohamed’s tweets represent fair comment and touch on matters in the public interest.”
“Mr. Mohamed will not issue an immediate retraction or take down his tweets,” his lawyer’s letter says. “Mr. Mohamed will vigorously defend any attempt by Mr. Diotte to restrict his right to free expression, particularly on matters that are the very heart of his right to political and democratic expression.”
The situation appears to have begun when Mr. Mohamed responded critically to a tweet posted by University of Alberta Student Union President Reed Larson posing in a photograph with Mr. Diotte. The other young people retweeted or commented on Mr. Mohamed’s remarks.
A story in the Gateway, the University of Alberta student newspaper, noted that Mr. Diotte has been criticized for making remarks characterized as “racist” and “insensitive” in the past.
“Critics of Diotte’s behaviour include Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who said he’d be upset if similar behaviour happened at city council,” the Gateway report said. Mr. Diotte was a member of Edmonton City Council and a Sun Media journalist before being elected to Parliament as a Conservative in 2015.
One of Mr. Mohamed’s tweets, reprinted in the Gateway article, argued it is inappropriate for student representatives to “cozy up” to Mr. Diotte, who has posed in social media photos with Ms. Goldy.
Other than her recent run for mayor of Toronto, in which she attracted 3.4 per cent of the vote and a panegyric from paleoconservative Conrad Black, Ms. Goldy is best known for being fired by Rebel Media for being too far to the right even for them after giving an interview to a neo-Nazi website.
Mr. Mohamed said yesterday afternoon he has heard nothing more from Mr. Diotte or his legal counsel since his response was posted on social media Thursday.
It would be interesting to know if other Conservative Party of Canada MPs have recently taken similar action against constituents, former constituents and other members of the public who may have made vehement criticisms or sharp comments about government and elected officials.
It would be interesting as well to know if Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer supports the action taken by Mr. Diotte.
Mr. Mohamed said in tweets yesterday that while he has given some thought to the creation of a legal defence fund, “I am still waiting to see if they will go through with the court case.”
In the mean time, he urged supporters to contribute to the defence fund for the more than 20 individuals being sued for defamation by former University of British Columbia Professor Steven Galloway.
Mr. Mohamed addressed Mr. Diotte directly in one of his tweets yesterday afternoon: “I am disappointed that you would choose the legal route rather than addressing your own tweets,” he said. “Nevertheless, I am ready to walk this path with you. You know how to get in touch with my lawyer.”