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The Defamation Act
This is an unofficial version.
If you need an official copy, use the bilingual (PDF) version.

This version is current as of March 21, 2017.
It has been in effect since August 1, 2002.

Note: Earlier consolidated versions are not available online.


 

C.C.S.M. c. D20

The Defamation Act

HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

Definitions

1           In this Act,

"broadcasting" means the dissemination of writing, signs, signals symbols, pictures and sounds of all kinds, intended to be received by the public either directly or through the medium of relay stations, by means of

(a) any form of wireless radioelectric communication utilizing Hertzian waves, including radiotelegraph and radiotelephone, or

(b) cables, wires, fibre-optic linkages or laser beams; (« radiodiffusion et télévision »)

"defamation" means libel or slander; (« diffamation »)

"newspaper" means a paper containing news, intelligence, occurrences, pictures, or illustrations, or remarks or observations thereon, printed for sale and published periodically, or in parts or numbers, at intervals not exceeding 31 days between the publication of any two of such papers, parts or numbers; (« journal »)

"public meeting" means a meeting bona fide and lawfully held for a lawful purpose and for the furtherance or discussion of any matter of public concern, whether admission thereto is general or restricted; (« assemblée publique »)

"publish" includes transmission, emission, dissemination or the making public of writings, signs, signals symbols, pictures and sounds of all kinds, from or by a newspaper or from or by broadcasting. (« publier »)

Presumption of damage

2           An action lies for defamation and in an action for defamation, where defamation is proved, damage shall be presumed.

Allegations of plaintiff

3           In an action for defamation the plaintiff may allege that the matter complained of was used in a defamatory sense, specifying the defamatory sense without alleging how the matter was used in that sense, and the pleading shall be put in issue by the denial of the alleged defamation; and where the matter set forth, with or without the alleged meaning, shows a cause of action, the pleading is sufficient.

Apology in mitigation of damages

4           In an action for defamation in which the defendant has pleaded a denial of the alleged defamation only, or has suffered judgment by default, or judgment has been given against him on motion for judgment on the pleadings, he may give in evidence, in mitigation of damages, that he made or offered a written or printed apology to the plaintiff for the defamation before the commencement of the action, or, if the action was commenced before there was an opportunity of making or offering the apology, that he did so as soon afterwards as he had an opportunity.

Payment into court by way of amends

5           The defendant may pay into court, with his defence, a sum of money by way of amends for the injury sustained by the publication of the defamatory matter, with or without a denial of liability, and the payment has the same effect as payment into court in other cases.

General or special verdict

6           On the trial of an action for defamation

(a) the jury may give a general verdict upon the whole matter in issue in the action, and shall not be required or directed to find for the plaintiff merely on proof of publication by the defendant of the alleged defamation and of the sense ascribed to it in the action;

(b) the court shall, according to its discretion, give its opinion and directions to the jury on the matter in issue as in other cases; and

(c) the jury may on such issue find a special verdict if they think fit so to do;

and the proceedings after verdict, whether general or special, shall be the same as in other cases.

Consolidation of actions for same defamation

7           Upon an application by two or more defendants in two or more actions brought by the same person for the same, or substantially the same, defamation, the court may make an order for the consolidation of the actions so that they shall be tried together; and after an order has been made, and before the trial of the actions, the defendants in any new actions instituted in respect of any such defamation are also entitled to be joined in a common action upon a joint application by the new defendants and the defendants in the actions already consolidated.

Assessment and apportionment of damages and costs

8(1)        In a consolidated action under section 7 the court or jury shall assess the whole amount of the damages, if any, in one sum; but a separate verdict shall be given for or against each defendant in the same way as if the actions consolidated had been tried separately.

Apportionment

8(2)        If the court or jury gives a verdict against defendants in more than one of the actions so consolidated, it shall apportion the amount of the damages between and against those defendants; and, if the plaintiff is awarded the costs of the action, the judge shall make such order as he deems just for the apportionment of the costs between and against those defendants.

Publication of opinions expressed by other

9(1)        Where the defendant published alleged defamatory matter that is an opinion expressed by another person, a defence of fair comment shall not fail for the reason only that the defendant did not hold the opinion if

(a) the defendant did not know that the person expressing the opinion did not hold the opinion; and

(b) a person could honestly hold the opinion.

Duty to inquire

9(2)        For the purpose of this section, the defendant is not under a duty to inquire into whether the person expressing the opinion holds the opinion.

Certain reports and other publications privileged

10(1)       A fair and accurate report, published in a newspaper or by broadcasting, of a public meeting or, except where neither the public nor any reporter is admitted, of proceedings in

(a) the Senate or House of Commons of Canada;

(b) the Legislative Assembly of this province or any other province of Canada; or

(c) a committee of any of such bodies; or

(d) a meeting of commissioners authorized to act by or pursuant to statute or other lawful warrant or authority; or

(e) any meeting of

(i) a municipal council;

(ii) a school board;

(iii) a board of education;

(iv) a board of health; or

(v) any other board or local authority formed or constituted under any public Act of the Parliament of Canada or the Legislature of this province or any other province of Canada, or of a committee appointed by any such board or local authority;

is privileged, unless it is proved that the publication was made maliciously.

Further privilege

10(2)       The publication in a newspaper or by broadcasting, at the request of any government department, bureau or office or public officer, of any report, bulletin, notice or other document issued for the information of the public is privileged, unless it is proved that the publication was made maliciously.

Application of section

10(3)       Nothing in this section applies to the publication of seditious, blasphemous or indecent matter.

Where subsecs. (1) and (2) not applicable

10(4)       Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply where,

(a) in the case of publication in a newspaper, the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to insert in the newspaper a reasonable letter or statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant fails to show that he has done so; or

(b) in the case of publication by broadcasting, the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to broadcast a reasonable statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant fails to show that he has done so, from the broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least two occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

Existing privileges not limited

10(5)       Nothing in this section limits or abridges any privilege now by law existing, or applies to the publication of any matter not of public concern or the publication of which is not for the public benefit.

Reports of proceedings in court privileged

11(1)       A fair and accurate report, published in a newspaper or by broadcasting, of proceedings publicly heard before any court is absolutely privileged if,

(a) the report contains no comment;

(b) the report is published contemporaneously with the proceedings that are the subject matter of the report, or within thirty days thereafter; and

(c) the report contains nothing of a seditious, blasphemous or indecent nature.

Where subsec. (1) not applicable

11(2)       Subsection (1) does not apply where,

(a) in the case of publication in a newspaper, the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to publish in the newspapers a reasonable letter or statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant fails to show that he has done so; or

(b) in the case of publication by broadcasting, the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to broadcast a reasonable statement or explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant fails to show that he has done so, from the broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least two occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

Application of secs. 10 and 11

12          Sections 10 and 11 apply to every headline or caption in a newspaper that relates to any report therein.

Application of sections 14 to 18

13          Sections 14 to 18 apply only to actions for defamation against

(a) the proprietor or publisher of a newspaper; or

(b) the owner or operator of a broadcasting station; or

(c) an officer, servant or employee thereof;

in respect of defamatory matter published in the newspaper or from the broadcasting station.

Notice of action

14(1)        No action lies unless the plaintiff has, within three months after the publication of the defamatory matter has come to his notice or knowledge, given to the defendant, in the case of a daily newspaper, seven, and in the case of any other newspaper or where the defamatory matter was broadcast, 14 days' notice in writing of his intention to bring an action, specifying the defamatory matter complained of.

Service of notice

14(2)       The notice shall be served in the same manner as a statement of claim issued in an action in the Court of Queen's Bench.

Place of trial

15          The action shall be tried

(a) in the judicial centre in which or closest to which the chief office of the newspaper or of the owner or operator of the broadcasting station is situated; or

(b) in the judicial centre in which or closest to which the plaintiff resides at the time the action is brought;

but upon the application of either party the court may

(c) direct the action to be tried, or the damages to be assessed, in any other judicial centre if it appears to be in the interest of justice; and

(d) impose such terms as to payment of witness fees and otherwise as the court deems proper.

Evidence in mitigation of damages

16(1)       The defendant may prove in mitigation of damages that the defamatory matter was published in the newspaper or was broadcast without actual malice and without gross negligence, and that before the commencement of the action, or at the earliest opportunity afterwards, the defendant,

(a) published in the newspaper in which the defamatory matter was published a full and fair retraction thereof and a full apology for the defamation, or, if the newspaper is one ordinarily published at intervals exceeding one week, that he offered to publish such a retraction and apology in any newspaper to be selected by the plaintiff; or

(b) broadcast such a retraction and apology, from the broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least two occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

Mitigation

16(2)       The defendant may prove in mitigation of damages that the plaintiff has already brought action for, or has recovered damages, or has received or agreed to receive compensation in respect of defamation to the same purport or effect as that for which action is brought.

When plaintiff to recover special damage only

17(1)       The plaintiff shall recover only special damage if it appears on the trial,

(a) that the alleged defamatory matter was published in good faith; and

(b) that there was reasonable ground to believe that the publication thereof was for the public benefit; and

(c) that it did not impute to the plaintiff the commission of a criminal offence; and

(d) that the publication took place in mistake or misapprehension of the facts; and

(e) that

(i) where the alleged defamatory matter was published in a newspaper, a full and fair retraction of, and a full apology for, any statement therein alleged to be erroneous were published in the newspaper before the commencement of the action, and were so published in as conspicuous a place and type as was the alleged defamatory matter; or

(ii) where the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, the retraction and apology were broadcast from broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least two occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

Retraction in case of candidate

17(2)       Subsection (1) does not apply to the case of defamation against any candidate for public office unless the retraction and apology are published editorially in the newspaper in a conspicuous manner or broadcast, as the case may require, at least five days before the election.

Non-application of sections 14 and 17

18(1)       No defendant in an action for defamation published in a newspaper is entitled to the benefit of sections 14 and 17, unless the name of the printer and publisher and address of publication are printed as required by The Newspapers Act.

Production of evidence

18(2)       The production of a printed copy of a newspaper is prima facie evidence of the publication of the printed copy, and of the truth of the statements mentioned in subsection (1).

Where sections 14 & 17 not applicable

18(3)       Where a person, by registered letter containing his address and addressed to a broadcasting station,

(a) alleges that defamation against him has been broadcast from the station; and

(b) requests the name and address of the owner or operator of the station, or the names and addresses of the owner and the operator of the station;

sections 14 and 17 do not apply with respect to an action by that person against the owner or operator for the alleged defamation unless the person whose name and address are so requested delivers the requested information to the first mentioned person, or mails it by registered letter, addressed to him, within ten days from the date on which the first mentioned registered letter is received at the broadcasting station.

Libel of race, creed or sexual orientation

19(1)       The publication of a libel against a race, religious creed or sexual orientation likely to expose persons belonging to the race, professing the religious creed, or having the sexual orientation to hatred, contempt or ridicule, and tending to raise unrest or disorder among the people, entitles a person belonging to the race, professing the religious creed, or having the sexual orientation to sue for an injunction to prevent the continuation and circulation of the libel; and the Court of Queen's Bench may entertain the action.

Criminal conduct excluded

19(1.1)     For the purpose of subsection (1), the terms "religious creed" and "sexual orientation" shall not be interpreted to extend to any conduct prohibited by the Criminal Code (Canada).

Persons liable

19(2)       The action may be taken against the person responsible for the authorship, publication, or circulation, of the libel.

Meaning of "publication"

19(3)       The word in this section, "publication" in addition to the meaning set out in section 1, includes any words legibly marked upon any substance or any object signifying the matter otherwise than by words, exhibited in public or caused to be seen or shown or circulated or delivered with a view to its being seen by any person.

One action only

19(4)       No more than one action shall be brought under subsection (1) in respect of the same libel.

S.M. 2002, c. 24, s. 17.

Construction

20          This Act shall be so interpreted and construed as to effect its general purpose of making uniform the law of the provinces that enact it.