Monday, February 24, 2014

Free Dominion Shut Down by Lawfare

Free Dominion, one of the adamant foes of the Canadian Gun Registry, has been shut down.

The conservative website, Free Dominion, has shut down after a long legal battle with censorship champion lawyer Richard Warman.  Warman gained notoriety for his attacks on sites he disargreed with by using the "hate speech" law in Canada (the Canadian Human Rights Commission) to censor speech.  He was essentially the only person using the law and the process.  The CHRC became his personal tool of repression.  He had considerable success, though the CHRC has since been reformed by parliament as a result.

Free Dominion has had a warm spot in my heart for  12 years.   They were one of the first sites to post my essay, Gun Registration is Gun Confiscation, and it lead to a spirited discussion on the site that I referenced more than once.  When I wanted to find the essay on the Internet, a search always turned up Free Dominion.  Not any more. 

According to Mark Steyn, who was attacked by Warman, Warman's  modus operendi was to create multiple Internet personalities, and use those to promote personal "hate speech" on websites.   He then referenced the posts in his lawsuits, and obtained quite a fortune from the process.   Now that the CHRC has been reformed, Warman has resorted to another part of Canadian law. 

Warman is now using the law on defamation, to shut down Free Dominion.  The Canadian law is so antithetical to free speech that it becomes impossible to meet the standards of the court and operate a web forum at the same time.  From Free Dominion:
Today, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith issued an order in the Richard Warman vs Mark and Connie Fournier and John Does defamation case heard September, 2013. In addition to ordering that we must pay Warman $127,000, Justice Smith issued an injunction against us ordering we that never publish, or allow to be published, anything negative about Richard Warman. This means we are barred for life from ever operating a public forum or a blog (even about cookie recipes) where the public can comment. If we do so, any one of Warman’s handful of supporters could, and probably would, use a common proxy server to avoid being traced, plant a negative comment about Warman on our site, and we would both be charged with contempt of court. If that happened --unlike in the Ottawa courtroom where we were blocked at every turn from presenting a defense-- we actually would have no defense. We would both go to jail. This life sentence was imposed for our terrible crimes of voicing our honestly held beliefs and allowing others to do the same. Defamation law, in its current state, is entirely inadequate and counterproductive when applied to the internet. Now it is being used as a tool of censorship. Effectively!
While this is more of a free speech issue than a second amendment one, the two are closely intertwined.   The Canadian press is itself cowed by the ruling.   Only one article has appeared about it in Canada, and the comments section was turned off.   But then, perhaps the old print media likes the idea of Internet political forums being shut down.   The ruling makes it impossible to allow a free interchange of ideas on the Internet, without fear of a successful lawsuit, in Canada.

Canadian law does not have an exception for public figures, as does American law.  Truth is only a defense if you can absolutely prove that what you write is true.  There is no room for opinion.  The has a pretty good overview of the case.   The article sums up Warman's claims here: has been critical of Warman’s efforts and published dozens of comments that called him, among other things, a “censorship champion.”
 So, in Canada defamation law, saying that someone is a censorship champion can result in their ability to effectively censor you.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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