February 25th, 2024

Drag performer slur perpetuates myths, Ont. judge rules, defamation suit advances

By The Canadian Press on December 31, 2023.

A lawyer for a drag performer says a recent Ontario court ruling signals people using dangerous anti-LGBTQ slurs can't hide behind certain free speech protections to shield themselves from legal accountability. The Ontario Superior Court building is seen in Toronto on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel

A lawyer for a drag performer says a recent Ontario court ruling signals people using dangerous anti-LGBTQ slurs can’t hide behind certain free speech protections to shield themselves from legal accountability.

The ruling this month out of Thunder Bay, Ont., clears the way for lawyer Douglas Judson’s client to advance a defamation suit against a man who allegedly used a slur on his self-identified “media/news” Facebook page to accuse drag performers of predatory behaviour.

In rejecting the man’s attempt to have the suit dismissed before trial, the judge wrote that “groomer” is a slur and his comments describing performers as such perpetuated hurtful myths and stereotypes about LGBTQ people.

The decision indicates the man claimed the lawsuit was meant to stifle his comments on a matter of public interest, arguing he was stating his opinion about current events and a CBC’s alleged promotion of the drag performance at a library in Dryden, Ont.

But the judge wrote the comments at issue were about the motivations of the drag performance’s organizers and participants and not a matter of public interest.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Tracey Nieckarz wrote the lawsuit does not have the “hallmarks of a ‘gag’ proceeding, but rather a legitimate defence of reputation against serious allegations.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2023.

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