The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is praising Attorney General Geoff Plant and the provincial government for new legal protections for libraries that distribute materials that are alleged to be defamatory.
Bill 62, the Attorney General Statutues Amendment Act, 2004, among other things, amends the Libel and Slander Act to create a legal immunity for libraries that distribute materials which are subject to a claim of defamation. Previously, the state of the law made libraries that were subject to notification of a claim of defamation liable if they continued to distribute the materials and there was a legal finding that the materials were defamatory. The new legislation will however require libraries to respect court orders for injunctions prior to trial. The Bill can be viewed online at: http://www.legis.gov.bc.ca/37th5th/3rd_read/gov62-3.htm (section 16).
BCCLA Board member Ann Curry: “This is a vital new protection for ensuring the integrity of library collections and a victory for freedom of expression against efforts to impose prior restraint on materials even before any court finds that there is defamation. The ultimate winner here is the public who’ll be able to continue to access controversial but not illegal materials.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association had called on the Attorney General to reform defamation law in B.C. to protect libraries because of situations such as the legal wranglings between Richard Warman and David Icke, author of Children of the Matrix. Mr. Warman had sued Mr. Icke alleging that the book is defamatory. Before going to trial, Mr. Warman had written library officials in Kamloops, Victoria and Vancouver notifying them of his lawsuit and requesting the libraries pull the book from their shelves. Upon consulting legal advice, the library boards all removed The Children of the Matrix from circulation.
Dr. Curry, also a member of the B.C. Library Association and Associate Professor at UBC, adds: “In the Warman case, libraries had to comply with Mr. Warman’s request or possibly face liability. This law will remedy that problem and ensure continued public access unless there is an injunction or finding of defamation. We believe this legislation is unique in North America and the B.C. government is to be congratulated.”