May 29, 2018
Thibault, Gagnon, Roy
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court granting an exception to dismiss. Dismissed.
The respondent Média QMI inc., who owns the newspaper Le Journal de Montreal, published an article written by the respondent Joncas discussing the appellant’s real estate project. Two-hundred-twenty-six days after becoming aware of the article, the appellant filed proceedings claiming damages for defamation in the amount of $508,256, to compensate the pecuniary losses sustained as a result of the false accusations contained in the Journal’s article (collaborating with the criminal Desjardins clan and laundering the proceeds of crime). It also claimed $25,000 from each of the respondents in moral damages for the damage to its reputation and demanded that the article be taken down from the Journal’s website and a complete retraction be published. The trial judge granted a motion to dismiss the action, finding that it was prescribed under s. 2 of the Press Act (CQLR, c. P-19). He also noted that s. 9 of that Act, argued by the appellant, did not apply because there was no accusation of having committed a criminal offence, and a reading of the article at issue did not show that the appellant had been defamed.
Section 2 of the Act sets out a three-month prescription period to bring an action when a person “who deems himself injured by an article published in a newspaper” wishes to claim damages. Section 9(a) of the Act provides an exception and extends this prescription period to one year if the newspaper accuses a person of a criminal offence. In this case, the article in question does not contain a direct or indirect accusation that a criminal offence was committed by the appellant. Anybody reading the article would not infer that the appellant launders money for the Desjardins clan or launders the proceeds of crime. It may be hinted at that the Desjardins family will draw some benefit from the sale of the land and the project’s condo units, but not that the appellant, through its real estate project, is being paid by this family or that it committed a criminal offence. Consequently, the three-month prescription period applies, and the judge did not err in granting the exception to dismiss.
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