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Supreme Court of Canada: Israel, not Ontario, is Forum Conveniens for Libel Proceedings

The decision to stay proceedings under the doctrine of forum non conveniens is discretionary, which in part means that appeal courts should be reluctant to reverse the decisions of motions judges on the issue.  It comes as some surprise, therefore, that the Supreme Court of Canada has disagreed with not only the motions judge but also the Court of Appeal for Ontario and overturned two earlier decisions denying a stay.  In Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) the court held (in a 6-3 decision) that the plaintiff’s libel proceedings in Ontario should be stayed because Israel is the clearly more appropriate forum.

Jurisdiction in Cross-Border Libel Cases

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has released Paulsson v. Cooper, 2011 ONCA 150 (available here).  The plaintiff, an academic and author resident in Ontario, sued the defendants for publishing an allegedly libellous review of his book.  The defendant publisher was incorporated in New York and had its national office in Massachusetts.  The reviewer was an Australian academic.

The motions judge had held that Ontario lacked jurisdiction, but the Court of Appeal held that Ontario had jurisdiction and that no other forum was more appropriate for the resolution of the dispute.  The court found that there was a “real and substantial connection” to Ontario.  The court applied the orthodox analysis that the tort of libel was committed where the statement was read, and so had happened in Ontario.  In addition, the place of the damage was Ontario since that was where the plaintiff’s reputation was located.