A legal fish fight has ended with the dismissal of a defamation suit brought by Mainstream Canada against anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford - even though the B.C. Supreme Court judge concluded Staniford's statements were defamatory.
Staniford led aggressive campaigns against fishfarming companies. Last year, he released a series of shock-ads through his Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture.
The Salmon Farming Kills campaign showed mock cigarette packages adorned with the Norwegian flag and slogans such as "Salmon farming kills like smoking."
Mainstream Canada, the second-largest salmon farming company in B.C. and a subsidiary of the Norwegian company Cermaq, sued Staniford and his group, claiming defamation.
Justice Elaine Adair dismissed the case, saying Staniford had an honest belief in what he was saying. "Although I have concluded Mr. Staniford's statements are defamatory of Mainstream, I have concluded he should succeed on his defence of fair comment," she wrote in the judgment. Staniford was acting with malice and his Internet postings are filled with insulting and demeaning comments and cruel caricatures, Adair said.
"However, I have found that he had an honest belief in the statements he made and injuring Mainstream because of spite and animosity was not his dominant purpose in publishing the words in issue."
While officials at Mainstream said they were disappointed, Staniford was jubilant.
"I am over the moon," Staniford said in an interview from Spain.
The British-born activist was deported from Canada in May after overstaying his visa. Since then, he has spent most of his time in Norway campaigning.
"This is a complete vindication and we are going full steam ahead. ... This will give momentum to the campaign against salmon farming all over the world," he said.
Staniford said he hopes Mainstream will not appeal.
"If they choose to appeal, I think they are going to be shooting themselves in the foot for a second time," he said.
Mainstream spokeswoman Laurie Jensen said the company is reviewing the ruling and considering its implications.
"Mainstream is disappointed with the decision of the court. The judge ruled the activist's statements were defamatory and malicious and not based on fact, but, because he truly believed them, our claim was dismissed," she said.
"We believe that people who say defamatory and malicious things should be held accountable."