The Qualicum Nature Preservation Society (QNPS) and its president will go before a judge with an application to have a civil claim for defamation dismissed under the B.C. Protection of Public Participation Act (PoPPA).
The original civil claim was filed by developers Richard and Linda Todsen and Todsen Design and Construction in May. The couple said their reputation has been damaged by comments made by Ezra Morse, president of the QNPS, regarding their proposed development at 650 Eaglecrest Drive.
Two applications for the dismissal were filed on July 6, one for Morse personally and one for the society.
The application relies on the legal basis of legislation passed in 2019, which protects people from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).
“The evidence suggests that the purpose of the lawsuit is not to seek legal remedy for any damage to the plaintiffs’ reputation. Rather, the true nature of this lawsuit is to intimidate the defendants and other members of the public who have spoken out against the development proposal,” reads the application filed by Tollefson Law Corporation, on behalf of Morse.
The Todsens filed a second lawsuit at the same time against Deborah McKinley, the administrator of the Facebook group Concerned Citizen of Qualicum Beach and an active voice against their proposed 16 lot subdivision.
The Todsens’ claim was seeking permanent injunctions restraining both defendants from further writing or publishing accusations they made, or any similar. They also sought relief for damages for intentional infliction of mental distress; aggravated damage; general damages and punitive damages.
The applications for dismissal of Morse’s and the society cases seeks general, aggravated and punitive damage, as well as reimbursement from the Todsens for the cost of the application.
“The applicant (Morse) has suffered and continues to suffer emotional distress and psychological injury as a result of this lawsuit, which consequently have adversely impacted and continues to adversely impact his work and career,” reads the application for dismissal.
Morse denied his statements regarding the development were defamatory and claimed they were taken out of context in the civil claim, “in the proper context, none of the impugned statements would lower the plaintiffs’ (Todsens) reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person,” his application reads.
The QNPS is raising funds to assist with legal fees for the case and, according to its website, gathered over $29,000 so far, with a goal of $32,000.
The development, which sparked the cases is now in limbo, after the Todsens cancelled a public hearing this month.
Morse and the QNPS will present the applications to a judge in Nanaimo via teleconference on July 26, according to the applications.