A decision to cut down swaths of a Canadian forestry company’s claims against Greenpeace has survived an attempted legal challenge before Ontario’s top court.
That means a $7 million lawsuit by Resolute Forest Products against the environmental group will now proceed on a narrower but still substantive tract.
In the latest development in the bitter legal fight, the Ontario Court of Appeal declined to hear Resolute’s challenge of a Divisional Court ruling from last August that found several of the company’s allegations to be frivolous.
Greenpeace called the failed appeal attempt a “major setback” for Resolute.
“Resolute can try to muzzle their watchdogs by filing lawsuits as part of an expensive PR campaign, but they will ultimately fail,” Shane Moffatt, with Greenpeace Canada, said in a statement Friday. “Greenpeace will continue to stand by our critique of Resolute’s forestry practices as sound opinion based on reliable scientific evidence.”
Resolute, one of the world’s largest forestry multinationals, sued Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in 2013 over the group’s campaign against the company’s boreal logging in northern Ontario and Quebec. Essentially, Resolute alleges Greenpeace defamed it and interfered with its economic relations by threatening its customers.
The now affirmed decision that narrows the scope of the lawsuit does not change the basis of its case, Resolute said Friday.
“We have a moral and ethical responsibility to hold them accountable for their irresponsible and illegal campaign of misinformation,” Resolute’s Seth Kursman said. “They have not only caused economic harm to Resolute but also have directly impacted our customers, employees, First Nations partners, unions, small business owners and countless other in the communities in which we operate.”
In its August ruling, the Divisional Court struck down several branches of Resolute’s claim. Among other things, the company wanted to assert that Greenpeace organizations around the world had for decades systematically defied the law and acted illegitimately. It also wanted to claim that Greenpeace spent more on fundraising in 2012 than on any one of its campaigns.
“These allegations have nothing to do with the allegations of defamation and threatening Resolute customers in respect to Resolute’s conduct in Canada’s boreal forests,” the Divisional Court said in its ruling.
Despite the setback, Resolute said it wanted now to get on quickly with pressing its claim against Greenpeace, which it accused of drifting away from legitimate environmental work.
Meanwhile, a decision is pending on the fate of a related $300-million lawsuit Resolute filed in the United States against Greenpeace based on laws aimed at combating organized crime. The suit alleges the eco-group has indulged in a “criminal scheme” against Resolute.
Greenpeace is trying to have the suit thrown out without a substantive hearing on its merits by arguing among other things that its allegations against Resolute are constitutionally protected free speech even if not literally true.
“We are confident that the courts will continue to dismiss this company’s inflammatory allegations,” Moffatt said.