Court dismisses defamation lawsuit against Ford filed by ex-OPP deputy commissioner

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An Ontario court has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by a former high-ranking provincial police officer against Premier Doug Ford.

Former OPP deputy commission Brad Blair launched a $5-million suit in 2019, alleging the premier smeared his reputation for political gain by saying the officer had violated the Police Services Act.

Blair had asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate the appointment of Ron Taverner, a long-time friend of the premier, as OPP commissioner, raising concerns about political interference.

Ford's lawyers argued the premier's statements on the matter were fair comment, and called for the legal action to be thrown out under anti-SLAPP legislation.

In a ruling released last month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found the suit isn't exactly a SLAPP -- strategic litigation against public participation -- case, which typically refers to powerful entities seeking to silence more vulnerable opponents.

But the judge noted the analysis applies because Ford's comments related to a matter of public interest, and ruled to dismiss the claim.

Blair also filed a $15 million lawsuit alleging wrongful dismissal, and that case is expected to proceed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press