Court dismisses Maynard defamation action

by Edith Cody-Rice 

In a June 8 decision, Justice R. Ryan Bell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Perth issued a summary judgment in a defamation lawsuit by Steve Maynard against Mississippi Mills town Councillor John Edwards, stating that there was no genuine issue requiring a trial.

Mr. Maynard alleged that a comment posted by  Mr Edwards in the Millstone calling for Mr. Maynard to apologize for a “failed and groundless attack” on Councillor Jill McCubbin was maliciously false, defamatory and calculated to cause serious harm to his reputation. The judge disagreed, finding that the post was substantially true and was “fair comment”.

Mr. Maynard also alleged that Mr. Edwards’ failure to respond to several emails Mr. Maynard sent inflicted mental suffering. Justice Bell disagreed, stating that “Mr. Edwards’ failure to reply (to the emails) does not, in my view, constitute evidence of malice or wrongful conduct”.

This lawsuit is one of a series of legal actions arising out of Mr. Maynard’s attacks on members of the Mississippi Mills town council.

In 2017, Mr. Maynard alleged that Councillor McCubbin was ineligible to sit on Mississippi Mills council because she had been an employee of the local library board at the time of her election to council in 2014. Mr. Maynard withdrew the application, claiming that the withdrawal was not due to the merits of the application, but for fears for his safety. Although Justice Quigley noted this, he ordered Mr. Maynard to pay court costs as he had forced Council to hire a lawyer to defend a vexatious and meritless application.

In July 2017, Councillor Edwards and Mayor McLaughlin sued Mr. Maynard for defamation based on postings on Mr. Maynard’s Facebook page in connection with the proposed redevelopment of parkland in Mississippi Mills named after Mr. Maynard’s father. Their suit was dismissed by Justice Patrick Hurley who found, in part, that the lawsuit limited Mr. Maynard’s freedom of expression.

The current lawsuit is a counterclaim response to that earlier action and claims the intentional or negligent infliction of mental suffering. Mr. Maynard sued both Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Edwards. The case against the mayor has not yet been decided; however, Jonathan Collings, who represents both Mr. Edwards and Mr. McLaughlin, promised to vigorously defend the case and to seek costs if the mayor is successful.