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Friday, February 12, 2016
Saskatchewan Justice

Under The Libel and Slander Act, a plaintiff may make a claim that the words used against him or her are defamatory. The words complained of must be set out in the statement of claim so that the court may judge whether or not there is a cause of action for libel or slander.

As a general rule, defamation consists of printed words (i.e., libel) and spoken words (i.e., slander) that tend to lower a person's character in the estimation of others.

A defendant in a libel or slander case who has denied the allegation or who has a judgment given against him may give evidence in mitigation of damages. As evidence, the defendant may plead that he or she offered a written or printed apology to the plaintiff before the action was commenced or, if the action was already begun, as soon afterwards as the defendant had an opportunity.

In an action for libel contained in a newspaper, the defendant may plead in mitigation of damages that the libel was inserted without malice and without gross negligence and, before the action began or at the earliest opportunity afterwards:

  • he or she inserted a full apology in that newspaper; or
  • if the newspaper is published less often than weekly, he or she offered to publish the apology in any newspaper selected by the plaintiff.

In an action for libel contained in a newspaper, if the newspaper publishes the apology, the plaintiff can recover only actual damages (i.e., actual monetary losses) unless:

  • the original publication was not made in good faith;
  • there are no reasonable grounds to believe the publication was for the public benefit;
  • the original publication related to a criminal charge; and
  • the publication was not made by mistake or a misapprehension of the facts.

However, when the plaintiff is a candidate for public office in Saskatchewan, this provision does not apply unless the apology is made editorially in a conspicuous manner at least 15 days before the election.

The Act establishes a defence, known as a qualified privilege, for a fair and accurate newspaper report of specified types of proceedings, including proceedings of federal or provincial legislative or administrative bodies, public authorities, or committees of those bodies, unless it is proved the publication was made maliciously. The qualified privilege does not apply if the publication is not a matter of public concern or for the public benefit. The protection offered by the provision is not available as a defence if the plaintiff shows the defendant refused to publish a reasonable letter of explanation or contradiction by, or on behalf of, the plaintiff.

A fair and accurate report in a newspaper of public proceedings before a court, made without comment, has an absolute privilege (defence) unless the defendant has refused to publish a reasonable letter of explanation or contradiction by, or on behalf of, the plaintiff.

An action for libel contained in a newspaper must be begun within six months after the publication has come to the attention of the person defamed. However, once that action is begun, the Act allows the plaintiff to include a claim for any other libel against the plaintiff published by the defendant in the same newspaper within two years before the current action was begun.

No action for libel in a newspaper can proceed until the plaintiff has given the defendant five day's notice, in the case of a daily newspaper, and 14 day's notice, in the case of a weekly newspaper, of his or her intention to bring an action. The notice must specify the words that are the subject of the complaint.

The Act provides that the defendant may prove, as mitigation of damages, that the plaintiff has already brought actions or received damages or agreed to receive compensation in respect of the same or substantially the same libel published in another newspaper.

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