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December 23, 2011

Helena Guergis sues Stephen Harper

CANADA - Former cabinet minister Helena Guergis was falsely accused of cocaine use, extortion and associating with hookers in a plot to chase her from politics. Guergis, the former MP for Simcoe—Grey and minister of state for the status of women, saw her political career smashed in April 2010 in a swirl of false allegations which ultimately cost her career, her ability to make a living and her self respect.

And now its payback time.

Helena Guergis is suing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party of Canada and two former cabinet colleagues for $1.3 million, for their roles in deliberately and unfairly forcing her out of the Conservative caucus and cabinet for their own political, personal and financial benefit.

In one incident, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt spreaded “defamatory” words that she had seen Guergis in the bathroom of an Ottawa restaurant using cocaine with two other people. That rumour later turned out to be a complete fabrication.

The lies unfolded in 2010.

In April 2010, private investigator Derrick Snowdy went to Arthur Hamilton (a lawyer with the Cassels Brock law firm) and falsely claimed that Guergis was involved in fraud, extortion and prostitution.

Hamilton went to Harper’s inner circle and the Prime Minister himself, and then Stephen Harper decided (with no proof that Guergis was involved in any wrongdoing) that they would kick Guergis out of the caucus and work to distance themselves from her.

On April 9th 2010, Harper announced in a news release that he had become aware of “serious allegations” about Guergis’s conduct. The Prime Minister said Guergis had offered her resignation from cabinet and would no longer sit as a Tory MP.

But Harper never detailed what the allegations were and Guergis didn't offer her resignation. Guergis says she was pressured to step down and accuses Harper of rushing to judgment.

Much later private investigator Derrick Snowdy's claims were proved false and complete fabrication, but because Harper acted on the false information and deliberately worked to force Guergis out of politics that shows he acted with malicious intent.

However, Harper and his cronies will probably get off. Defamation laws clear state that if people act on information (even if later proved to be false information) that this NOT constitute defamation because it is "reasonable to believe".

There are several defenses against defamation:

#1. Responsible Communication, ie. warning people about a criminal.
#2. Fair Comment, ie. commenting on something that is reasonable to believe.
#3. Already Infamous, ie. the person is a known criminal.

And so forth...

So while Helena Guergis' lawsuit has validity, it will likely fail because Stephen Harper's actions fall into the realm of Fair Comment. If the PMO took other actions which stepped over the boundaries of Fair Comment however (such as the false cocaine allegation) then that crosses into defamation.

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