Judge Rules that Canadian Ambassador Slandered Documentary Video Maker – Both Ambassador and Canadian Government ordered to pay almost $10,000 in damages and costs
News Release – Klippensteins, Barristers and Solicitors
(Toronto, June 16, 2010) An Ontario judge has ruled that former Canadian Ambassador to Guatemala, Kenneth Cook, slandered Ph.D. student and videographer Steven Schnoor by making false statements about a documentary video that Schnoor made that was critical of the practices of a Canadian mining company.
In January 2007, Schnoor made a short documentary depicting the violent eviction of Mayan subsistence farmers from their homes in rural Guatemala at the behest of a Canadian mining company. This documentary includes footage of a woman who protests loudly about the evictions. It also includes a number of still photographs by James Rodríguez, including one of a community member in despair with his head in his hand.
Justice Pamela Thomson has ruled that in a meeting conducted at the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala City in February 2007, Ambassador Cook said that the woman in the documentary was paid to act in the video and that the photograph of the man in despair was not taken at the evictions, but was a stock photograph that had been used before.
Justice Thomson held that the Ambassador’s statements were defamatory and were not true. She further held that “the Ambassador was reckless”, and that “he should have known better”.
Justice Thomson also drew attention to the behaviour of the Canadian government in the months after the defamatory comments were spoken. She held that the “dead silence” that Schnoor received in response to his request for an explanation, retraction and apology, was “spiteful and oppressive”.
Steven Schnoor testified at trial that the Ambassador’s comments served to undermine the credibility of the people in the video.
“I am glad that there has finally been some accountability for the Ambassador’s actions. As the judge said, this defamation was serious.” Schnoor said.
“To me, this is a very big problem – it’s not just about me and one particular video. I am concerned that this is an example of how the Government of Canada is quick to discount the voices of people who are harmed by Canadian mining companies. I hope that more Canadians will lend their voice to the growing numbers who are already saying that this is not what they expect from their government.”
For more information, contact:
Steven Schnoor at steven_s(at)yorku.ca
Murray Klippenstein (lawyer) (416) 937-8634 (mobile)
Cory Wanless (lawyer) (416) 598-0288
More information can be found at www.schnoorversuscanada.com