Date set for Skeena MLA’s slander suit

A 10-day trial by jury has been set for plaintiff Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin and defendants James Lynch and Michael Brousseau

A civil lawsuit filed by a politician over comments made at an all candidates forum during the 2013 provincial election has been set for a trial in July.

A 10-day trial by jury has been set to start July 13 for a supreme court justice to hear from plaintiff Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin and defendants James Lynch and Michael Brousseau.

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The justice will decide if damages should be awarded to Austin for allegedly slanderous words spoken by Lynch at the meeting and believed to be influenced by Brousseau, a political opponent of Austin’s, according to Austin’s civil case notice of claim.

In another notice of trial filed with the court Austin and Lynch “agree that not more than 10 days is a reasonable time for the hearing of all evidence and arguments in this action. The defendant Michael Brousseau has not provided an estimate.”

Brousseau also had a deadline of March 31 to provide documents he may use at trial to Austin but failed to do so.

In Austin’s civil claim, first filed in the BC Supreme Court Jan. 9, 2014, Austin said Lynch’s comments at the April 2013 all candidates meeting, in which he alleged Austin abused a foster child, characterize Austin as a sexual predator and not worthy of his standing in the community and of his position as a public official, are not only false but libelous.

Austin is claiming general, aggravated, punitive and special damages against Lynch and also against Brousseau, who ran against Austin as a BC Conservative candidate in that election and in the previous 2009 provincial election.

The original suit filed against Lynch included a “John Doe” who was then described as Brousseau in the amended suit, filed Oct. 2, 2014.

In Lynch’s amended response, he denied having any plan or scheme between himself and Brousseau when he made the statements or at all.

It goes on to say that Lynch acted “entirely on his own in making the statements” and that Lynch does not know Brousseau, other than from minimal contact from when Brousseau was campaigning.

Brousseau has also maintained he did not know Lynch nor scheme with him and that Austin’s claim against him is politically motivated.

Speaking late last year, Brousseau said he encountered Lynch once when he was out door knocking in support of his candidacy during the 2013 provincial election period.

During the all candidates meeting held at the Terrace Pentecostal church, Lynch, in a statement contained in a question to Austin and included as a transcript of comments made at the meeting in the court documents, said he had got to know a girl who was once a foster child of Austin and his wife.

He said she told him of sexual abuse and when he asked her why she did not go to the authorities, he said she wondered who would believe her.

“I really felt for the girl because we got to [be] buds,” the transcript of Lynch’s comments continued. The transcript was included in court filings.

Lynch took back his statements and issued a formal retraction and apology to Austin after being contacted by Austin’s lawyers and after investigating the claim further.

A letter sent to Austin through his lawyer May 8, 3013 and included in the court documents reads that Lynch “belatedly investigated his source more thoroughly and again spoke to the child’s foster mother … he is convinced the foster child duped him into believing her and there was no basis whatsoever for her statement to him” and that he “is now convinced that there was no truth whatsoever to the allegation she made to him, that he believed and then repeated at the all candidates meeting.”