Supreme Court Paves Way for Libel Action Against B’nai Brith

Oct. 16, 2020

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has greenlighted a libel action brought by a pro-Palestinian activist against B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Press reported Oct. 15.

As usual, the high court gave no reason for declining to hear an appeal from B’nai Brith. The development clears the way for lawyer Dimitri Lascaris to pursue a libel case against the Jewish advocacy group.

The matter goes back to August 2016 when B’nai Brith published an article alleging Lascaris supported terrorism following a trip he made to Israel.

The article, and a subsequent tweet, charged that Lascaris had used social media “to advocate on behalf of terrorists who have murdered Israeli citizens.”

Lascaris initiated a libel case against B’nai Brith, which sought to dismiss the action using anti-SLAPP legislation, a legal tool designed to prevent use of courts to silence speech that is deemed to be in the public interest.

B’nai Brith succeed in Ontario’s Superior of Court of Justice but that decision was overturned by the province’s Court of Appeal, which reinstated Lascaris’s action.

He is seeking $220,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, plus costs.

Lascaris was the recent runner-up for the federal Green Party leadership. He has a long history of pro-Palestinian activism, including representing organizers of the annual al-Quds Day rally in Toronto.

This is not the first time B’nai Brith’s reliance on Ontario’s anti-SLAPP law faltered.

In January, an Ontario court dismissed a motion from the Jewish group, which sought to squelch a defamation lawsuit brought against it by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

CUPW had made common cause with its Palestinian counterpart, the Palestinian Postal Service Workers Union, which B’nai Brith said “supports terrorism and the elimination of Israel,” and that CUPW’s leadership “had aligned itself with the path of violence and extremism.”

A judge dismissed B’nai Brith’s request to have the case thrown out under the anti-SLAPP law, saying that, in fact, CUPW’s defamation suit “appears to have merit.”

B’nai Brith is appealing the ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The organization had no comment on the Lascaris matter.

– By CJR Staff