MP Han Dong suffered ‘indisputable’ damage to reputation over foreign interference reports, says judge

He 'may be a villain, or he may be innocent,’ Justice Paul Perell wrote in a16-page decision that ordered Global News to pay Dong's legal costs for the failed motion to have his lawsuit dropped.

MP Han Dong suffered ‘indisputable’ damage to reputation over foreign interference reports, says judge
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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Owing to foreign interference reporting, Independent MP Han Dong has suffered “indisputable” damage to his reputation, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

"Dong may be a villain, or he may be innocent," Justice Paul Perell wrote in his 16-page decision. 

On Wednesday, he ordered Global News to pay Dong's legal costs for the failed motion to have his lawsuit dropped.

“The defendants may have outed a villain and be lauded for it, or they may have wrongfully accused an innocent man, and if so, they should be embarrassed,” the decision reads. “They should pay reparations.”

Last February, national security sources alleged Dong worked to delay the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, over anxieties of support shifting to the Conservatives. They claimed Dong spoke with Han Tao, China's consul general in Toronto.

He resigned from the Liberal caucus last March 24 to contest the “false” allegations. No date has been set for a defamation trial. 

MP Dong claimed “verified security sources” attacked his reputation and questioned his “loyalty to Canada.” He admitted to speaking with Tao but not regarding the two Michaels.

“I raised the status of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release,” the member of Parliament wrote in an earlier statement.

“As a parliamentarian … I would never advocate or support the violation of the fundamental rights of any Canadian,” he said.

Justice Perell said the allegation surrounding the two Michaels “is the matter which most disgraces his morality, his character, his reputation and his livelihood.”

“There is no dispute, and indeed, it is indisputable that the defendants' reports caused immense damage to Dong, his reputation, and to his career prospects,” Perell's decision said.

Perell’s decision says the $15 million lawsuit against Global has “substantial merit” and should continue. 

He also questioned whether the broadcaster should have refrained from publishing the story.

In the publication’s statement of defence to the suit, which named Global News, Corus Entertainment Inc., journalists Sam Cooper and Mackenzie Gray, along with anchor Antony Robart and others, argue the articles were in the public’s interest.

“Certain allegations,” it reads, “were based on information from two, or in some cases, three confidential sources with knowledge of CSIS investigations.”

Global alleged “Dong was a witting affiliate in China’s election interference” for accepting China's help to secure the Don Valley North Liberal nomination in 2019.

Global defended its reporting and the integrity of its “confidential sources.”

“Confidential sources,” the defence states, “play a key role in bringing stories of public interest to light,” and they “are at times necessary to be employed by the media in support of freedom of expression and in the interests of a healthy democracy.”

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) vowed to track down the intelligence leaks, and appeared dissatisfied with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his lack of urgency on foreign interference.

Trudeau told reporters his office was aware of the allegations at the time, but contends intelligence officers ‘do not dictate’ who can run in an election.

“It is not up to unelected security officials to dictate to political parties who can or cannot run,” he said.

MP Dong was previously investigated by CSIS on “a matter of significant public interest.”

The disgruntled member of Parliament remains hopeful he can return to the Liberal caucus sooner than later.

In response to Dong’s legal victory, Global expressed grave disappointment in Wednesday’s decision.

“We are encouraged by the recognition of foreign government interference as a matter of public interest in Justice Perell's ruling,” spokesperson Rishma Govani said Thursday. “As the matter remains before the courts, we will not comment further at this time.”

MP Dong, on the other hand, welcomed the possibility of clearing his name.

“It is now even clearer that Global News must apologize and retract their defamatory reporting,” he said. “Until they do, I will continue to fight to clear my name in the courts.”

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