Supreme Court decision in Banro case

In a decision released on April 18, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the five million dollar lawsuit initiated by the mining company Banro against the publisher Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada. The claimants argued that Ontario was not an appropriate forum for hearing this defamation suit regarding a French-language book that circulated almost exclusively within Quebec.

Though its publication has been discontinued and the book has not been in circulation for quite some time, the Court held that the lawsuit could be maintained in Ontario. This deplorable decision by the highest court of the country is a direct attack against freedom of speech. This short-sighted decision seems influenced more by the fluctuations in stock prices of multibillion-dollar companies rather than by the desire to preserve the freedom of expression of Canadian citizens.

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Écosociété at the Supreme Court of Canada

On March 25, the Supreme Court of Canada heard a request by the publisher Éditions Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada aiming to have declared the Ontario forum inappropriate for hearing the defamation suit of the Banro Corporation.

During the proceedings, Éditions Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada were able to count on the support of lawyers from Lenczner Slaght s.r.l. (Me William C. McDowell) and from the University of Ottawa Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic[1] (Me William Amos, in the picture, with Anne-Marie Voisard of Éditions Écosociété and Alain Deneault, author of Noir Canada). The defendants benefited equally from the precious contributions of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

Among the arguments invoked by the parties, were notably mentioned the Francophone character of the publication; the minimal distribution of the work in Ontario territory; the fact that there is no real and substantial connection between the chosen forum and the Banro defamation action; the chilling effect of defamation suits with their implied costs on the holding of public debate; the concurrence of a similar suit deposed in Quebec by Barrick Gold as well as the existence of a Quebec law protecting citizens’ freedom of expression in public debate.

Éditions Écosociété is still awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court.

The hearing is available by Webcast at the following address:…

[1] The University of Ottawa Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, a non-profit organization financed entirely by donations, has supported juridically the artisans of Noir Canada since the very beginning of this affair.

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David versus the mining goliath

Interesting article on the case via Greenpeace:

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Banro Corporation SLAPP Suit for $5 Million

Publisher Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada take the case to Supreme Court

Montreal, January 21, 2011 – The Supreme Court of Canada has accepted to hear the motion of Éditions Ecosociété and the authors of the book Noir Canada (Alain Deneault, Delphine Abadie, and William Sacher) to repatriate to Quebec the proceedings instituted against them by Banro Corporation in the Superior Court of Ontario (….).

Éditions Ecosociété and the authors of Noir Canada argue that Ontario is not the appropriate jurisdiction to prosecute the architects of the book who work in Quebec and who do their work in French. A few dozen copies of Noir Canada only were distributed in Ontario. Banro Corporation for its part is registered in Toronto but exploits no mine in the province and has several foreign administrators.

The book Noir Canada gives an account of the controversial role of Canadian corporations in Africa, based exclusively on previously-known international documentation, such as United Nations reports or the research of public organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Pole Institut (

Éditions Ecosociété and the authors of Noir Canada were first sued in Quebec for libel by Barrick Gold, on April 29, 2008 for $6 million. Banro entered the fray on June 11, 2008 by reproducing essentially the same allegations as Barrick, in a suit for $5 million, this time in Ontario, under another code of law. Éditions Ecosociété and the authors of Noir Canada see in the Banro suit a strategy to exhaust them since this presents for them a doubling of judicial procedures and costs, as well as numerous trips to Toronto, whether it be for attending hearings or for participating in questioning before the process.

This corresponds to that which is called “Strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP). This instrumentalization of law puts in peril liberty of expression and the right of the public to information. The province of Ontario, contrary to Quebec, has no anti-SLAPP legislation currently in force. To date, 272 Canadian university professors have signed a petition in support of Éditions Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada, appealing to the Ontario government that it adopts in its turn an anti-SLAPP law. They put forward that “SLAPPs impose unacceptable limitations on freedom of expression, academic freedom and deliberative democracy. These lawsuits are brought in the absence of any meaningful public debate. They are filed by companies or institutions against individuals or activist groups, aimed at neutralizing or censuring public criticism of their activities” (

The Supreme Court hearing will take place on March 25, 2011.

We need you! You can now proudly display your support of Éditions Écosociété and the authors of Noir Canada by wearing a superb tee-shirt Libre d’être Écosociété that celebrates freedom of expression in all its forms. Proceeds from the sale of these tee-shirts will go to the fund for the legal defense, notably to the aid of the authors, who do not benefit from the support of an insurer. To buy a tee-shirt, click here.

You can also donate to the Éditions Écosociété defense fund via their Internet site or by sending a cheque to this address:

Les Éditions Écosociété
C.P. 32052, Comptoir Saint-André
Montréal (Québec) H2L 4Y5
Téléphone: (514) 521-0913
Fax: (514) 521-1283

Il you would like to support us in some other way, by volunteering your time, you can contact us via e-mail:



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