A decision has been reserved in the trial of an Invermere man suing the mayor of the same community for alleged defamatory remarks in the comment section of a regional online newspaper.
Devin Kazakoff, an Invermere resident who was a member of an anti-deer cull organization, is suing mayor Gerry Taft for defamation in response to remarks the mayor made in the comment section of a press release regarding urban deer posted on the news website.
Kazakoff was one of four names at the bottom of the press release to contact for further information, however, Taft wrote that Kazakoff had signed off on it, calling him a ‘convicted felon’.
“Signed by the same Devon Kazzakof [sic] who was convicted of tampering with and destroying deer traps in Kimberley,” Taft allegedly wrote. “I wouldn’t be so quick to believe convicted felons who have extreme positions on animal rights issues and who do not respect the decisions of democratically elected local governments doing what the majority of their constituents want.”
Taft’s comment referenced an incident where Kazakoff and an associate were charged with mischief under $5,000 for vandalizing and destroying two deer traps in Kimberley in 2014. Kazakoff pleaded guilty to the offence, was fined $2,700 and conditionally discharged.
Following the publication of the defamatory remarks, Kazakoff demanded an apology from Taft. Kazakoff’s lawyer, Neil Robertson, said a request for an apology from Taft was refused, while Taft’s lawyer, Brent Desruisseaux, says an apology was submitted to the news website for publication.
Desruisseaux argued that his client’s comments of free expression based on a reasonable person’s understanding of legal terminology. A reasonable and ordinary person wouldn’t know the legal definitions and difference between a conditional discharge and a conviction.
In essence, it was an error in description, but the substance was true, he said.
Desruisseaux added that Taft had testified in the trial that he thought anyone who had committed a crime was labeled a convicted felon.
Kazakoff is seeking $175,000 in general, punitive and aggravated damages.
Taft has been mayor of Invermere since 2008 and is running as the BC NDP candidate in the Columbia River – Revelstoke riding for the upcoming provincial election.