Township of Muskoka Lakes District Councillor Ruth Nishikawa has been ordered to pay $30,000 in damages for defaming one of her former peers.
In a judgment obtained by Muskoka News Watch, the court finds Nishikawa did defame Ron Brent by suggesting in an email that Brent leaked closed session municipal information in relation to the controversial Bala Falls issue. The court has decided it was Nishikawa herself that leaked the information.
In deciding against Nishikawa, Justice MacKinnon draws this conclusion regarding Nishikawa’s actions:
“The impugned words were and are defamatory of Mr. Brent. They were untrue. They remain untrue. They have never been withdrawn. They were published by this defendant to all District Municipality of Muskoka (DMM) councilors, DMM chairs, and to all Township of Muskoka Lakes councilors, the TML Mayor, and to Pat Arney.”
Demonstrated evidence of malice
MacKinnon adds “the defendant knew both at the time of publication and again two days later, and again now, that her written words were untrue. There is demonstrated evidence of her malice. Ms. Nishikawa’s communication was reprehensible and calls for condemnation.”
Counsel for the defendant argued that the truth of Nishikawa’s words in her email communication was irrelevant. Justice MacKinnon disagreed, stating
“Truth is always important and always relevant.”
The Justice also said that damages awarded would have been more if it had appeared Nishikawa’s actions had resulted in him losing the election. Brent lost his seat by 44 votes.
As well as the $30,000 in damages, Nishikawa may also pay yet-to-be determined legal costs. Originally, Brent had only asked for an apology. Had she done that, Brent said he would not have sought legal action.
Vindication for Brent, says lawyer
Brent’s lawyer, Michael Anne MacDonald, says yesterday’s decision is “a complete vindication for Mr. Brent, whose integrity was wrongfully defamed by a sitting councilor during an election campaign. It is now up to the Township of Muskoka Lakes to deal with the Township Code of Conduct and I would hope sanction her conduct.”
- November 16, 2015, MNW: Date set for Councillor defamation hearing: Brent vs Nishikawa
- September 17, 2014, MNW: Nishikawa to fight defamation charges
Featured Photo from Township of Muskoka Lakes website