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Supreme Court allows Conrad Black to pursue libel suits

The Supreme Court of Canada has paved the way for disgraced media mogul Conrad Black to pursue a series of libel lawsuits in the province of Ontario.

The high court issued the ruling in a series of cases, including Black’s, which dealt with whether provincial courts should assume jurisdiction over out-of-province defendants in civil claims.

Black, now serving a prison sentence for fraud in the U.S., is suing former associates at Hollinger International and their adviser, Richard Breeden, for comments he deemed defamatory.

The remarks were published in the United States and republished online by many media outlets in Ontario.

Breeden’s lawyer has argued that Black, who is no longer a Canadian citizen, is engaging in “libel tourism” by bringing a lawsuit in the jurisdiction most likely to side in his favour.

The ruling has wider implications for Canadian libel law in the Internet age.

“Considering the combined effect of the relevant facts, and in particular the weight of the alleged harm to Lord Black’s reputation in Ontario … I conclude that an Illinois court does not emerge as a clearly more appropriate forum than an Ontario court for the trial of the libel actions brought against the appellants by Lord Black,” wrote Justice Louis LeBel on behalf of the court’s unanimous 7-0 decision.

The court’s agreed with Black’s legal team, which argued that the libel actions had a “real and substantial connection” to Ontario, where Black established his reputation.

They argued that he should be vindicated of the allegations about his use of Hollinger shareholder money.