When we launched this site, we had no idea what adventures lay ahead. But we certainly didn’t have “getting sued within the first year” at the top of our bingo card.
Life had different plans, though. And now we’ve landed a win for press freedom and truth in Canada.
On September 11, 2021, we published an opinion piece called “Quack Quack! These Pro-Virus Nurses Have Dangerous Ideas.”
Apparently, that got under the Pro-Virus Nurse’s skin.
Was it a snarky story? Yes, it probably was.
Was it also necessary? You bet!
The “nurses” in question were all fired from their jobs in Ontario healthcare facilities. They were part of an organization called Canadian Frontline Nurses (CFN). Remember when people protested outside hospitals and put patients and workers at risk? You can thank the CFN for inspiring those.
In our op-ed, we argued that this rogue group was spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID, masks, and vaccines. Their misinformation was dangerous.
Here’s the thing: we live in a free country. You can believe that the earth is flat. Or, as one of the nurses, Kristal Pitter, said in her testimony, you can believe that maybe only one person died from COVID.
We don’t care.
But when you use your position to peddle un-scientific junk like the CFN was doing during a public health crisis, we’ve got news for you. That’s downright dangerous, irresponsible, and reckless. And we’ve got something to say about it.
That’s why we called out these former nurses. And we didn’t mince words.
We called them “Pro-Virus” because they were opposing vaccines, mask mandates, limits on gathering size and other measures designed to protect people from the potentially lethal virus.
Three months after the article was published, the CFN sued us.
But that’s not all. They also sued the Canadian Nurses Association, which had made a public statement against groups spreading disinformation.
And they wanted us to pay them $1 million.
Interestingly, CBC, Georgia Straight, and other prominent news organizations also published critical articles about the CFN. Did the CFN sue those papers? Nope, they did not.
A million dollars hung above our heads, but we stood by our story. Everything we wrote about CFN and its spokespeople, Kristal Pitter, Kristen Nagle, and Sarah Choujounian, was published elsewhere or came from their own social media.
We felt that our story was rock solid. Fair comment. An important critique.
And right before Christmas, the courts agreed with us. On December 23, 2022, we got the Christmas present we had hoped for.
Ontario Supreme Court Judge Marie-Andrée Vermette dismissed CFN’s lawsuit and ordered the nurses to pay our legal costs and those of the Canadian Nurses Association.
In her decision, Justice Vermette found that the plaintiffs, Pitter, Nagle and Choujounian, “failed to establish that they have suffered sufficiently serious harm as a result of the CNA Statement and the TNI Article….”
More importantly, Justice Vermette said, “If this proceeding were allowed to continue, its chilling effects would have an impact well beyond the parties to this case. There is a real risk that the effects of this proceeding will stifle the speech of the Defendants, and deter other physicians, journalists, scientists, and other members of the public from engaging in public discussion and discourse about potential misinformation on matters of public health in the future.”
We live in a world of swirling misinformation. People who speak the truth must be protected from those who want to bury it.
This decision is an important victory for press freedom. It’s also a big win for anyone who cherishes the right to openly and vigorously debate critical public issues.
Freedom of assembly, expression, and the press are fundamental to democracy—full stop. And sometimes, you have to hit back hard, even when it could cost you.
The Canadian Frontline Nurses, self-proclaimed freedom fighters, tried to use the courts to snuff out our freedom to critique their activities and comments around COVID-19 and public health protections.
And today, we’re celebrating one small but significant victory for press freedom.