Police Charge Canadian Blogger With Criminal Libel...for Criticizing the Police

Last summer Charles LeBlanc, a resident of Fredericton, New Brunswick, who seems to be the sort of character people politely describe as a "well-known local gadfly," said something uncomplimentary on his blog about a Fredericton police officer. It is not clear exactly what he said, or why it was fundamentally different from all the invective LeBlanc has hurled at local cops and politicians over the years. But he says it prompted an eight-man raid of his apartment last Thursday, during which the Fredericton Police Force, the same agency he has repeatedly and vociferously criticized, seized his computer as evidence of "defamatory libel." In Canada that redundant-sounding offense is not a tort but a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. LeBlanc has agreed to appear in court on April 20.

University of New Brunswick law professor Jula Hughes tells the Fredericton Daily Gleaner it is very unusual to pursue libel as a criminal matter, even in Canada. In such a case, she says, the burden is on the defendant to prove the truth of his allegedly libelous statement. Another possible defense is to argue that the defendant sincerely believed the statement to be true, since the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that intent is an element of criminal libel. The Daily Gleaner paraphrases Julian Walker, who "teaches a course in free speech and the free press at St. Thomas University in Fredericton," as saying "it seems awkward a police officer would be the one to launch a defamatory libel case."

Fredericton City Councillor Jordan Graham agrees, telling CBC News:

Civil liberties, I do believe, are being attacked here—whether it's a concerted effort, or it's an attempt to just scratch an itch....I think that if you're going to be going after members of the media or people that promote public discussion through criticism with this law, it creates concerns about how honest of a dialogue we can have with people and with government, and I think that's a fundamental liberty we all have to have....The real problem isn't about whether or not we like what Charles is saying. That to me is not the issue here. It's whether or not he should be able to say it and how we deal with that as a society....I have a huge problem with this being a criminal issue.

Even assuming that a criminal investigation is appropriate, Graham says, the Fredericton police should not be handling it because they have a clear conflict of interest. On his blog Graham writes:

Leblanc has been an activist that calls out government on what he thinks is wrong. His comments are colorful and in some cases kooky, but they never incite harm....Leblanc has frustrated a lot of people, but I believe in his sincere goal: he wants tomorrow's government to be better than today's, which according to his plan, should be better than yesterday's. Prior to this whole fiasco, he referred to the police as being fascist and operating like the KGB. It sounds crazy coming from him on his bright picket signs, but now it's less funny....Whether it was intended or not, the City of Fredericton is sending a message that nuisances will be silenced, and that people should think twice about taking on the state....I find this type of behavior to be morally reprehensible and a giant step back for political discourse in Fredericton. We're all fools if we don’t think the next journalist to call out the police isn’t going to be looking over their shoulder.

At least as scary as the raid itself is the fact that Graham feels a need to explain at length (as you will see if you read the whole post) that 1) freedom of speech is important to the proper functioning of a liberal democracy, 2) people have a right to freedom of speech even if we don't like what they say, 3) empowering police to arrest people who criticize them might have a chilling effect on speech. It's a miracle that someone like the Hayek-quoting Graham can get elected in a political culture where these points remain controversial.

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  • "Furious" Styles||

    ...from the humanitarian, enlightened pacifists that brought you universal health care.

  • Fredericton PD Noonien Singh||

    We offered them ORDER!

  • Tim||

    "Fred's Erection"? That's a strange name for a town, even a Canadian one.

  • Gojira||

    That's a good observation, I didn't even see it until you just pointed it out.

  • Tim||

    I suppose now that I've punned it, the Fred's Erection Police will be coming for me.

  • Fred's Erection Police||

    the Fred's Erection Police will be coming for me

    FEP, FEP, FEP, FEP, ...

  • ||

    I just figured the town was found by a gay couple named Fred and Eric.

  • ||

    In such a case, she says, the burden is on the defendant to prove the truth of his allegedly libelous statement.

    Really? The defendant has to prove his innocence, no the prosecution has the prove his guilt?

    That's pretty screwy, Canuckistan. I love your pealmeal bacon, but that's sad.

  • ||

    Almost as sad as the fact that the Bloc Quebecois is a congregation of socialistic fuckheads that blow on every issue imaginable are STILL retain enormous popularity, for example.

  • ||

    Not anymore, RPA. The Bloc Quebecois went down in flames in the last election. The longtime leader of the party Gilles Duceppe lost his seat along with most of their ridings. They mostly went to NDP who are also socialist fuckheads, but still.

  • Gojira||

    So do the Quebecois still want to pursue independence, or is that pretty much a dead issue now?

  • PantsFan||

    They are saying that there is not currently an atmosphere for separation

  • ||

    Truth is an "affirmative defense" to libel. The burden of establishing an affirmative defense is on the defendant.

  • ||

    what he said

  • ||

    We have such "affirmative defense" requirements in the US system too. The prosecution has the burden to prove the crime was committed but the defendant has the burden to prove the exception applies.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    If an exception applies, there was no crime.

    Affirmative defenses are for crimes where the evidence would be enough to convict in the general run of cases. Eg, the necessity defense usually doesn't apply because most law violations aren't strictly necessary to avoid a greater evil, etc.

    At least, I think that's the rationale.

  • robc||

    you beat me to it.

  • ||

    No. In murder trials where the accused claims self-defense, for instance, the state doesn't have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was NOT acting in self-defense. They just have to prove that he or she killed the person intentionally. The accused has to prove to preponderance of the evidence that he or she was acting in self-defense.

  • robc||

    But if the exception applies, no crime was committed, so the prosecution could never prove it in the first place.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Tulpa is arguing his usual predictable gotcha I'm smarter than you wiener perspective. Go back to grading my calculus exam, wiener.

  • ||

    Someone likes to play with semantics.

    Let me try again: the state just has to prove that the accused violated the criminal statute. For example, killing someone in self-defense does technically violate murder statutes, but an affirmative defense is written into them for cases of self-defense.

    If an affirmative defense is written into the statute, the defendant has to prove that it applies.

  • IRG||

    "Someone likes to play with semantics."

    Yeah, you do asshole.

  • ||

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    That's us, and if it can racy on the issue HERE, Canada sure as shit isn't safe from it.

  • ||

    *get

  • Rich||

    It is not clear exactly what he said

    Well, it would seem that should end the matter right there.

  • ||

    "Its not clear exactly what he said" ... not true. Its known EXACTLY what he said ... everything from "Faggot, Racist, Fascist, Gestapo, Hitler" to name a few...

  • Crackpot||

    Doesn't that hoser crackpot know that it's a lot safer to do your crackpotting anonymously in a chat room, eh?

  • sarcazmic||

    I hate cops.
    Just checking in.

  • ||

  • ||

    Self awareness - how does it work?

    Chief: Boys, that SOB LeBlanc is calling us a bunch of jackbooted thugs. What are we going to do about it?
    Officer Sychophant: Chief, we can charge him with criminal libel. Bust in his house and haul away him and his filthy computer. That will shut him up.
    Officer LeClue: But doesn't that behavior just confirm what he's saying about us.
    Chief: Shut up and get out the battle gear and battering ram. Wooohooo! Smashee-shmashee!

  • ||

    it's pronounced Si-co-fan-te, jerk.

  • ||

    I'd go with psychophant myself.

  • Tim||

    They're probably hoping that the libel pretext will allow them to find kiddy porn on his computer or maybe pirated movies.
    By "find" I mean put.

  • Alack||

    So the cops already have kiddy porn? Just one of the perks, I guess

  • Tonio||

    We all got that, Tim.

  • Pudgeboy||

    Eight cops to raid this guy's place... pathetic, a bunch of little girls, terrified by a blogger. How do these losers face their families after being such a pussy all day...

  • Brandon||

    Drink and punch?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    How do these losers face their families after being such a pussy all day[?]

    Only after they revel in their reflection from their freshly spit-shined medals of courage.

  • Less equal than others||

    Just go to the source; ask dunphy.

  • Paul||

    University of New Brunswick law professor Jula Hughes tells the Fredericton Daily Gleaner it is very unusual to pursue libel as a criminal matter, even in Canada.

    I move that all descriptive phrases or sentences should end with "even in Canada".

  • ||

    I move that all descriptive phrases or sentences should end with "even in Canada, eh"

  • Alack||

    I move that all descriptive phrases or sentences should end with "even in Canada", even in Canada.

    FTFY

  • JD the elder||

    I move that all descriptive phrases or sentences should end with "even in Canada", even in Canada.

    FTFY

    That was an imperative, though, not a descriptive phrase or sentence, even in Canada.

  • Alack||

    This only proves that I am an idiot.

    Even in Canada.

  • Captain Obvious||

    I move that all descriptive phrases or sentences should end with "even in Canada".

    Even in Canada?

  • Alack||

    Jinx!

  • Captain Obvious||

    Alas!

  • Alack||

    No thanks, I prefer lads.

  • OO========D||

    Hello, handsome.

  • WTF||

    No thanks, I prefer lads.

    Even in Canada?

  • ||

    Drink!

  • R||

    NTTAWWT.

    Even in Canada, eh.

  • ||

    seized his computer as evidence of "defamatory libel."

    wouldn't a screenshot of the offending message have sufficed?

    if someone publishes something defamatory about you, you can't just demand the manuscript for eveidence...

  • Paul||

    In this country, they could have called his speech an 'in-kind contribution', and then liberals would be fine with the raid on his residence.

  • Brett L||

    OT: Is anyone else getting weird fonts when a page reloads?

  • Charles LeBlanc||

    Yep.

  • ||

    Even in Canada?

  • ||

    Even in Canada, eh?

    Pay attention, chuckles.

  • Doug McKenzie||

    Hoser!

  • sarcasmic||

    Prior to this whole fiasco, he referred to the police as being fascist and operating like the KGB.

    In response they send an eight man team to raid his home and confiscate his computer so he can no longer say such things about them on his blog.

    Now he must prove his statement to be true.

    Didn't they do it for him?

  • Zeb||

    Oh, I hope that is part of his defense.

  • The Ghost of Pythagoras||

    Behold!

  • Snowbee||

    Right? I wouldn't be surprised to see this as a daily brickbat as well as a blog post.

  • ||

    Oh, c'mon. He was micro-aggressing, othering the po-po like a mofo. And the Total State has a monopoly on micro-aggression, right?

  • Rich||

    othering the po-po like a mofo

    Sweet.

  • ||

    lyrics from MC Dean's upcoming album, I hope.

  • Gus||

    His stage name is MCRC.

  • ||

    pronounced "Mic Rock"

    (and that's "Mic" as in microphone, not a dirty irishman)

  • Sparky||

    dirty irishman

    You didn't have to say it twice.

  • Brett L||

    You think you know how to party? They named the police van after my people.

  • ||

    I prefer MC Rove

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Serves him right for abrogating the Geneva Convention.

  • ||

    Seriously, though, this will be interesting. If the Canadians don't bury this prosecution in mockery and shame, leading its outright dismissal, then that will say a lot about them. Even in Canada. eh?

  • ||

    If the Canadians don't bury this prosecution in mockery and shame, leading its outright dismissal, then that will say a lot about them. Even in Canada. eh?

    Can juries in Canada nullify?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Coun. Graham told CBC News it's impossible to separate the charges from LeBlanc's history as a thorn in the side of the police.

    "I never said that it was an intentional attack on civil liberties, but civil liberties, I do believe, are being attacked here — whether it's a concerted effort, or it's an attempt to just scratch an itch," Graham said on Tuesday.

    Not intentional? Police accidentally attempted to silence a critic?

    Despite his public comments on the issue, Graham insists he hasn't "intervened".

    "I'm certainly not coming to Charles' side in any official capacity aside from the fact that I'm concerned that defamatory libel is the route being pursued here," he said.

    "I would say I've contributed to the discussion that's going on out there, but there's no requirement for anybody to take any action on the basis of what I've said.

    I'm not sure I would call that sterling leadership.

  • Alack||

    I'm not sure I would call that sterling leadership.

    Even in Canada?

  • tarran||

    Not intentional? Police accidentally attempted to silence a critic?

    Just like a captain can trip and fall into a life-boat, a police officer can accidentally trip and inadvertantly thrust a warrant into a judges hands, causing the judge to sign it by mistake. If the officer had filled out the warrant as a prank, not intending to ever act upon it, it could all be totally above board.

  • Sandi||

    I took a shit in Canada once.

  • Captain Obvious||

    Even in Canada, eh?

  • Snowbee||

    Shitting. Even in Canada.

  • Bradley||

    It's a miracle that someone like the Hayek-quoting Graham can get elected in a political culture where these points remain controversial.

    In case anyone thinks this is unique to the Canadian political culture: ever tried asking the average American liberal how he or she feels about "offensive" speech?

  • Sparky||

    I'm pretty sure the response would be along the lines of:

    "I hate offensive speech you ignorant asshole!"

  • Rich||

    Or "Your very asking offends me."

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Fredericton police all abuse farm animals and sell crack so they can buy more crack. I sincerely believe this to be the truth.

  • Frederictonian||

    I take a shit in the U.S. every chance I get. Smells good on them. Newsflash America: the whole world hates your inbred guts. Squeeeeeeeeel like a pig!

    God bless Canada.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Most Canadians have no choice but to commute to America for basic things they need all the time, while Americans never need anything from Canada so traveling there is entirely optional.

    Examples:

    1. Picking up and paying your DirecTV bill from your post office box in North Dakota.

    2. Critically needed open heart surgery or tumor removals.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    3. Seeing Rush or Celine Dion in concert because 90% of the time they are in the United States and 9% of the time the European third world.

  • Frederictonian||

    Funny. I've never had to go to the states for any of those reasons. Furthermore, I don't know anyone else that has either. My satellite TV service is better than Direct TV. No desire to ever enter North Dakota. Heart and cancer surgeries are performed here from coast to coast on a daily basis. Can't stand Celine Dion.

    Later O'Bumma boy.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Are you Charles LeBlanc? What's funny is that this whole thread is about pissing all over those thug cops for harassing some old crazy guy. Then you show up talking out your ass like you didn't read anything except for the part about shitting in Canada. Makes me think that if you are Charles LeBlanc, that I now find the cop thing to be hilarious. So what do you think about canadian thugs harassing people, and the general lack of canadian government respecting personal individual rights that are at least perceived in America?

  • Frederictonian||

    Nope, I'm not Charles LeBlanc. Charles can't even compose a sentence properly, let alone an entire paragraph. I just saw the above comments about shitting in Canada and it looked kinda fun, so I reciprocated. I was right - it was fun! I've always been entertained by the ignorance of Americans and how ingrown they are. It's just an addiction I guess.

    As for the harassment and Canadian government stuff you harp about, that doesn't interest me much either. Besides, you're mind is all made up on those matters, and nothing I say is going to change it. After all, I'm the one who just took a big shit on your country. Why would you be interested in my opinion? LOL

  • ||

    Heart and cancer surgeries are performed here from coast to coast on a daily basis.

    Just not, apparently, enough of them.

  • Frederictonian||

    Apparently - Seeming real or true, but not necessarily so.

  • ||

    Apparently - obvious to the naked eye.

  • ||

    "but not necessarily so" == prejudicial contentless filler

  • ||

    Heart and cancer surgeries are performed here from coast to coast on a daily basis.

    And they're also scheduled on a daily basis...a year beforehand.

  • Frederictonian||

    This is a perfect example ignorance I mentioned earlier. I love it.

  • ||

    At least as scary as the raid itself is the fact that Graham feels a need to explain at length (as you will see if you read the whole post) that 1) freedom of speech is important to the proper functioning of a liberal democracy, 2) people have a right to freedom of speech even if we don't like what they say, 3) empowering police to arrest people who criticize them might have a chilling effect on speech. It's a miracle that someone like the Hayek-quoting Graham can get elected in a political culture where these points remain controversial.

    Jacob, I am going to call "bullshit" on you for this one. This view is NOT 'controversial' in Canada. The vast majority of Canadians have a 'live and let live' attitude.

    A few such cases arise here because we have overzealous cops and officials - just as in your country.

    What is different about Graham is that, for an elected official, he does not feel obligated to be a cop-sucker.

    I have no stats, but ask you: How many US elected officials would have the balls to call out the local cops on a bad raid? (Unless, like Mayor Calvo, they have been subjected to one themselves?)

  • Frederictonian||

    Oooops! Sorry, I missed Rush. Don't care much for them either really.

  • ||

    Let's be clear here. i have been following Charles Leblanc for about 5 years now and can assure you that the title of this blog entry couldn't be further from the truth. Contrary to your claim, Leblanc is not being charged with libel for critiquing the police. he;s being charged with libel because I committed libel against various individuals including among them several police officers. its not his criticism that has landed him in hot water, its his claims on his blog that cops tried to have him murdered, tried to sexually grope them, referring to them as racists without any evidence, etc. Leblanc is guilty and he's provided all the evidence the Crown (i.e. DA) requires for a conviction. Also, Leblanc was warned numerous times to tone down the language and he simply refused and now must pay the consequences.

  • Bradley||

    he;s being charged with libel because I committed libel against various individuals including among them several police officers

    Neat trick you have there.

  • Killersontherun||

    Let's be clear? You changed pronominal form in several instances above.

    referring to them as racists without any evidence.

    Dude, that is as laughable as it is contemptible. You put a guy in jail for an unsubstantiated claim of racism? Are you people monsters? If that was possible here in the States, Spike Lee, David Horowitz, half the NYT editorial board, and our own beloved Max would all be on the incarcerated public dole.

  • Bradley||

    As everyone knows, libel law is only for use against defendants who are too weird or poor to afford lawyers.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "Leblanc was warned numerous times to tone down the language and he simply refused and now must pay the consequences."

    This man was arrested for being in too many bad moods.

  • C2||

    So, in arresting him the way they did they proved his statements correct, didn't they!

    His defence is his arrest.

  • Free Charles LeBlanc||

    Charles' blog is read by a bunch of Fredericton news nerds.

    The police stepped in it this time. They took someone almost universally marginalized and made him a budding hero.

    They will reap what they sow.

  • Freddy Beacher||

    "2) people have a right to freedom of speech even if we don't like what they say"

    Always amusing to hear Americans talk about how other countries should be governed by what rules (THEIR rules). Freedom of speech in Canada does not include defaming others by telling lies in the process, hence the libel criminal law. There is a difference between stating your opinion like: "Police being run in KGB manner" and saying "cop john smith is a wife beater". But in America, politicians can run smear campaigns against their opponents, instead of tackling the issues to get elected... and if they are wrong - oops! but he's still a ______ and a ____. But damage already done, and no punishment to the attacker for lying.

    Having said this, Charles is highly annoying with his uneducated and sick mind, but the police are absolutely wrong to take revenge on this defenseless soul.

  • Freddy Beacher||

    "Leblanc was warned numerous times to tone down the language and he simply refused and now must pay the consequences."

    So what? We cannot speak our mind about what we think of the police, as they may not like how you are 'making them look' in the public view? Any way you look at it, the city police should not have been the ones applying a search warrant to collect evidence for a case being pursued by one of their members. If they felt that strongly about the case, it should have gone to an outside force such as the RCMP to handle it.

  • Charles LeBlanco||

    This is the real Charles LeBlanc and thank you for the coverage.

    I get a kick of these Cowards people who writes stuff but always anonymously...I wonder how these idiots sleep at night?

    Ok...thanks again!!

    P.S. In 1978, I rode a ten speed from Halifax Nova Scotia to San Francisco... I made a stop in Hollywood and I was there for the rode bowl parade...:)

    See ya...

  • Frederictonian||

    So take a hike then. Don't read it.

    As for your 34-year-old bike ride, no one cares jackass.

    So it's "LeBlanco" to the Yanks, is it?

    LOL

    You stupid piece of rubbish.

  • LeBlanco? WTF?||

    "I wonder how these idiots sleep at night?"

    Funny you ask. How do YOU sleep at night after a full day of defamation and libel?

  • Charles LeBlanco||

    I wish you cowards Idiots Jerkface would tel me this face to face up here in Fredericton...:P

  • Frederictonian||

    Oh you mean like the way you take your concerns to Dan B., Fred L. and the other 150 people you hate in person and talk to them face to face like a man? Yeah that must be what you mean. Because no one in their right mind would dedicate a blog to publicly insulting them and destroying their reputations. And you ARE in your right mind, right? LOL

    Blow it out your ass Charles.

  • Frederictonian||

    Believe me, it's best for you that we don't speak face to face.

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