An Ontario judge has ruled that a $104-million lawsuit against a notorious anti-gay activist and his allies who crashed the 2016 Toronto Pride parade can’t go forward as a class action, but individuals could sue if they wished.
But Bill Whatcott — who has a history of crashing Pride parades across Canada — will have to reveal the identities of the other people who snuck into the parade with him, as well as their financial backers.
Whatcott is one of Canada’s most notorious anti-gay activists and was found guilty of distributing hate literature by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013.
During last year’s Toronto Pride parade, he dressed in a neon green bodysuit and distributed anti-gay literature to the crowd as part of the Gay Zombies Cannabis Consumer’s Association, a group fabricated in order to sneak into the event.
Former Ontario MPP George Smitherman, who plans to seek a city council seat in 2018, and Christopher Hudspeth, the owner of Pegasus Bar in Toronto’s gay Village, had filed suit on behalf of members of the federal and provincial Liberal parties, and the 500,000 estimated people who participated in the parade, for defamation, conspiracy to injure and inflicting mental distress.
Judge Paul Perell concluded that the suit can’t go forward as a class action because only individuals who have been specifically harmed can sue on those grounds. He suggested that the plaintiffs were trying to act as “public prosecutors for a hate crime,” which isn’t appropriate for a civil court.
“Criminal law responds to crimes against the community,” he wrote.
He also noted that some individuals who may have been defamed in the anti-gay pamphlets may have grounds to sue, and the case could continue if they came forward and if the plaintiffs submitted new pleadings.
The individuals mentioned in the pamphlets include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, former Liberal leader Bill Graham, and Benjamin Levin, a former Ontario Liberal deputy minister convicted of making and distributing child pornography.
Neither Pride Toronto nor the federal or provincial Liberal parties participated in the lawsuit.
The judge did grant a motion that will force Whatcott to name his associate marchers and their financial backers, who are currently anonymous.
Throughout his ruling, Perell chided both sides for making improper pleadings, noting that they submitted “jeremiads, diatribes, ad hominies, polemics, and propaganda pieces far removed from proper pleadings and proper legal argument.”
He specifically cited a press conference held by Smitherman, Hudspeth and their lawyer Doug Elliott when the suit was announced as improper.
“It is lamentable that the Plaintiffs have pleaded and argued in the fashion that they did and that they are making a public spectacle of their antipathy to Mr Whatcott and what he stands for,” he wrote.