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Digest of the Week — Parliamentary Privilege

Ontario v. Rothmans Inc. |
2014 CarswellOnt 8037 |
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Constitutional law | Nature and status of Dominion and provinces | Status and constitution of Parliament | Members of Parliament | Privileges of members | Statements relating to proceedings in Parliament

Crown brought action under Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act against tobacco companies for $50 billion for cost of health care benefits resulting from tobacco related disease or risk of tobacco related disease that have been or will be paid by Crown for insured persons — Crown alleged that various corporate defendants breached duties by misrepresenting risk of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke and conspired in breaching these duties — Crown alleged that defendants continually repeated misrepresentations about risks of smoking including presentations and statements made to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, Welfare and Social Affairs in 1969, to federal legislative committees and to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health in 1996 — Corporate defendant I Inc. alleged that representations were protected by parliamentary privilege, namely freedom of speech — Corporate defendant I Inc. brought motion to strike certain portions of Crown's statement of claim — Motion granted — Impugned paragraphs were struck out — Freedom of speech was well-established category of parliamentary privilege — Privilege applied to statements made in Parliament, to those made before parliamentary committees as well as statement made by Members of Parliament and to those who participated in proceedings in Parliament or parliamentary committees — As immunity was absolute, any self-serving motivation of person participating would not have affected privilege because motive was irrelevant.
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