The National Post is appealing a defamation ruling that ordered it to pay $50,000 to a B.C. politician and climate change scientist.
Andrew Weaver sued the newspaper, its publisher and several writers over four columns that were published in late 2009 and early 2010. At the time, Mr. Weaver was a University of Victoria professor who had participated in a UN panel on climate change, though now he is a Green party member of B.C.'s legislature.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge concluded the columns were defamatory and that they implied Mr. Weaver was deceitful and dishonest and ordered the newspaper to pay him general costs and retract all four stories. However, Justice Emily Burke ruled the Post wasn't liable for the allegedly defamatory comments attached to each of the online stories.
Mr. Weaver alleged the columns implied he tried to divert public attention from a scandal involving the UN panel by linking the fossil fuel industry to break-ins at his office, and that he distorted and concealed scientific data.
Mr. Weaver said he had told a Post reporter that the fossil fuel industry was benefiting from an overall campaign to discredit climate science, but he never suggested that it was responsible for security breaches at the university.
The newspaper argued the articles were about Mr. Weaver's public actions and words, not his character. It also argued they were protected by the defence of fair comment, which essentially allows writers to state opinions if they are in the public interest and based on fact.
Justice Burke disagreed with the defendants, concluding that an ordinary reader would infer defamatory meanings from the columns — including that Weaver was "deceitful" and "avaricious."
Now, the Post has filed a notice asking the B.C. Court of Appeal to overturn the original ruling and force Mr. Weaver to pay for the costs of the original trial and upcoming appeal. A representative of the National Post was not immediately available for comment and the appeal does not outline the legal arguments the newspaper intends to make.
Reached Thursday, Mr. Weaver said he was surprised by the appeal.
"The size of the award was not something that's completely outlandish," Mr. Weaver said. "The size of the award is certainly a lot less than it will cost to appeal this award.
"When you're a scientist in the field it's pretty important to correct the public record and I was trying to do that."
His lawyer Roger McConchie said they will issue their own cross appeal by the end of next week asking a judge to rule on the "novel issue" of whether the online comments were defamatory.
As well, Mr. Weaver will be asking for an increase to the $50,000 in general damages he received and further aggravated and punitive damages, according to Mr. McConchie.
With a report from Mike Hager