Judge dismisses Quebec woman's lawsuit against Trudeau after he blasted her 'racism'
MONTREAL -- A Quebec judge has thrown out a defamation lawsuit launched by a Quebec woman who argued that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated her rights when he called out her “racism” during a Liberal Party rally in 2018.
Diane Blain, of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., took the prime minister to court alleging that his comments in public violated her rights to freedom of expression and personal dignity. She sought $90,000 in damages.
In his written ruling on Monday, Superior Court Justice Michele Monast said the lawsuit was “ill-founded” and “abusive” and that the only person to blame for negative comments made about the incident is herself.
“Ms. Blain appears to have used the August 16, 2018 event to gain notoriety and promote her political views," wrote Justice Monast in the decision.
"It is not unreasonable to conclude, as suggested by Mr. Trudeau's counsel, that she took legal action against him for the same reasons."
The woman was filmed shouting at Trudeau in French during the rally for Liberal supporters and volunteers in Sainte-Anne-de-Sabrevois, Que.
She challenged him on the federal government’s immigration policy, particularly the amount of money he’d given to “illegal immigrants” in reference to asylum seekers at the Roxam Road border crossing.
At the time, the Quebec government had said a recent influx of people at the border had cost the province around $146 million and it had sought reimbursement from the federal government.
"That intolerance with regard to immigrants doesn't belong in Canada. That intolerance with regard to diversity, you don't belong here," Trudeau said in response.
"Madame, your intolerance doesn't belong here."
That’s when she responded by asking if he was tolerant of “Quebecois de souche,” a term used to describe Quebecers who can trace their roots to the earliest French settlers, which would exclude recent immigrants and Indigenous peoples.
“Madame, your racism has no place here,” the prime minister fired back to an applause from the crowd. The court ruling noted that that crowd included several people from diverse backgrounds and immigrants.
When she replied, “You don’t belong in Quebec either,” Trudeau told her that he was a “proud Quebecer.”
WOMAN WAS ‘TRYING TO PROVOKE HIM’
Blain testified that the incident was the most humiliating moment of her life and told the court that she’s “not racist.”
“I'm tolerant. I'm a nurse, I care for people who are yellow, red or Black,” she said in her testimony. “I have empathy.”
Blain had alleged that her reputation was tarnished by Trudeau’s comments, but the judge said she failed to provide any evidence to support her claims.
On the contrary, the court entered into evidence some of her social media posts that showed she had boasted about her confrontation with the prime minister, that her Facebook following had grown, that she had been invited to give speeches and had done interviews with right-wing publications following the incident.
In one of her Facebook posts, she discussed her refusal to be served by a Muslim woman “wearing the veil” during an appointment at the Université de Montréal and encouraged her friends to do the same.
In another post, she shared a video of her confrontation with Trudeau and the comment: “I am intolerant of injustice and the destruction of the Quebec nation.”
“In reality, she planned and orchestrated her presence at this rally with another person whose extreme right-wing nationalist ideology she shares. Their intention was to disrupt the event and prevent Mr. Trudeau from addressing his supporters,” the court ruling said.
“Her lack of civility, the aggressive tone in which she asked her questions, her insistence that Mr. Trudeau answer her immediately while he was delivering a speech, the disorder caused by her repeated questions, her refusal to not let him speak and listen to him, in spite of requests to do so, and in general her hostile attitude showed that she was trying to provoke him.”
According to court documents, Trudeau said in submitted testimony that the context in which Blain’s questions were asked was “important.”
“It was a context in which the goal was to disrupt and push an agenda that was either anti-immigrant or just wanted to create fear or concern about immigrants," the prime minister said.
"So for me, it was important that I respond firmly and clearly."
The prime minister’s comments may have offended Blain, but the court found they were not defamatory given her past behaviour and the choice of words she chose to challenge Trudeau.
Blain also claimed that the aftermath of the confrontation also strained her relationship with her daughter, who said she was “embarrassed” by her mother.
However, the court cast the claim as “implausible” and that any effect on the relationship was caused by “her own behaviour."
Justice Monast tossed the case out and ordered Blain to pay her own legal fees.