Ward 5 candidate takes exception to the Gazette coverage he got; sends a Notice of Libel

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

October 23rd, 2018



During the municipal election we wrote a number of articles about different candidates. We had not gotten to the point where we were ready to interview Daniel Roukema, who was running for the ward 5 council seat.

We did get a strong note from him demanding that we remove personal information about him from the list of candidates that were running in ward 5. We explained that the information came from the city Clerk’s office and was therefore public and we could see no reason for removing it.

That was the extent of our early interaction with Roukema.

Daniel R

Daniel Roukema

We then learned that Roukema had at last one significant legal matter that had yet to go to trial and were able to obtain copies of the claim Roukema was making and the defence that has been submitted.

A few days later we were sent a copy of an email that had some intemperate language.

When we were publishing a round up the candidates in each ward the Gazette thought were likely to win the election we included links to the Statement of Claim, the Defence and a copy of the email that was sent to us.
Our role as media is to inform the public. Mr. Roukema certainly wasn’t going to release that information.

The article was published as an opinion piece.

Early on Monday, Election Day, we received a notice of libel from a Hamilton law firm.

Libel notices are an occupational hazard in the newspaper business.

The notice in part said (it was 37 pages long and included everything that ever appeared in the Gazette relating to Roukema.)

The relevant part said:

(i) A newspaper article published to www.burlingtongazette.ca on October 16, 2018 by Pepper Parr which contains, among other things, information and comments about Daniel Roukema pertaining to “financial baggage” and “legal claims”.

(ii) A newspaper article published to www.burlingtongazette.ca on October 21, 2018 by Pepper Parr which contains, among other things, information and comments about Daniel Roukema pertaining to his alleged “baggage” and “legal problems and approach to communicating with people”.

To fully appreciate what follows you need to understand what the definition of inter alia is. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as: among other things.

The Roukema lawyers said:
It is the position of Daniel Roukema that the abovementioned articles are defamatory in their entirety. Thus, should litigation be necessary, Daniel Roukema will be seeking damages based on the entirety of their contents. Nonetheless, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, Daniel Roukema complains in particular about the following statements and links to documents contained within the aforementioned newspaper articles:

a) [Daniel Roukema’s] financial baggage and legal claims will get in the way of his being able to be an effective member of Council.

b) [Daniel Roukema’s] working style lacks the collaboration he mentioned seven times in his closing remarks

c) Daniel Roukema brings far too much baggage to the campaign. His legal problems and approach to communicating with people are serious concerns.

Lawyers frequently use Latin terms. One of those terms is inter alia which means among other things.

The following came from Roukema’s lawyer. WE did not say this about the man.

These statements are false and malicious, as in their natural and ordinary meaning and by way of innuendo, the words meant and were understood to mean, inter alia, that Daniel Roukema

(i) was deranged, unbalanced, strange, and/or somehow mentally unhinged

(ii) was prone to bizarre and suspicious behaviour,

(iii) was prone to loitering and guilty of trespassing,

(iv) was dishonest

(v) was a liar

(vi) had somehow engaged in misconduct that was socially unacceptable and/or illegal

(vii) had conspired with others for nefarious ends (viii) had stalked others and invaded their right to privacy

(viii) had stalked others and invaded their right to privacy

(ix) had poor personal hygiene

(x) was covered in dirt and filth

(xi) was somehow pathetic

(xii) was a person deserving of pity

(xiii) was a person deserving of scorn

(xiv) was a person deserving of ridicule

(xv) was a person unfit to hold office

(xvi) had engaged in criminal misconduct

(xvii) holds authoritarian views

(xviii) has no respect for the rule of law

(xix) is somehow a threat to the personal liberty of citizens

(xx) is somehow a threat to the maintenance of a free and democratic society

(xxi) lacks integrity,

(xxii) lacks judgment.

Neither Pepper Parr or the Burlington Gazette made these statements.  We would not have permitted our legal counsel to use this kind of language.

Regarding all of the recipients of this notice, it is hereby requested that you immediately publish an apology on www.burlingtongazette.ca retracting the contents of the abovementioned comments in their entirety. Moreover, as further publication would itself be actionable, our client also requests that www.burlingtongazette.ca and/or Pepper Parr immediately remove the impugned comments, and any mention of the aforementioned comments, from the www.burlingtongazette.ca website.

Should you fail to provide on or before November 5, 2018 an affirmative response to this notice, our office has been given instructions to commence proceedings seeking both injunctive relief and monetary damages. However, as our client would prefer an amicable resolution to this situation, I trust that a civil action will not be required.

Of the five candidates running for the ward 5 city council seat Daniel Roukema placed third.

The vote count was:

Wendy MORAGHAN, 2336 votes, 27.96%
Daniel ROUKEMA, 1319 votes, 15.79%
Paul SHARMAN, 2840 votes, 33.99%
Mary Alice ST. JAMES, 1471 votes, 17.61%
Xin Yi ZHANG, 389 votes, 4.66%

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6 comments to Ward 5 candidate takes exception to the Gazette coverage he got; sends a Notice of Libel

  • Conor Mullally

    I learned *in the comments section* it was a wrongful dismissal civil suit, and knowing the costs of those now infer legal fees are likely astronomical. While reporters work with data on hand, someone who negotiates for constituents of various sectors as he has didn’t warrant this coverage. Your community’s loss.

  • Brian Roach

    It seems to me in your haste for getting a quick opinion in on Mr. Roukema you really mischaracterised what the lawsuit was all about. Implying that a lawsuit suing a former employer for wrongful dismissal will somehow effect your performance as a council member is pretty ridiculous. You should have learned from some of your previous legal woes, that if you’re going to act like a newspaper and not just a blog, then you should be held to higher standards. Think about some of the ‘off the cuff’ remarks that you make.

  • Farley

    By my tally, Mr. Roukema appears to have placed fourth (not third)… sounds like sour grapes to me…

  • Puzzled

    These “oddball” excerpts from the lawyer’s letter, who is representing his client Daniel Roukema really helps to reinforce the reasoning why the vast majority of Ward 5 residents wisely and soundly rejected this fringe candidate. Mr. Roukema has no one else to blame for his pitiful loss; except himself.

    Mr. Roukema, don’t shoot the messenger.

  • Phil Mooney

    At the least, you should admit to poor reporting. Before you published, a simple question to the candidate would have confirmed that the legal action with ICCRC was settled six months ago. A second question about the recipient of the email would have sent you to other sources who could have shared information with you that might have allowed you to provide some context.
    I know Daniel Roukema, but I am not a supporter, nor do I live in his district.
    At the same time, it is ironic that your publishing of the material may have taken enough votes away from him to have helped elect the person you called the worst member of Burlington City Council!
    Free advice – save some legal costs and apologize for not speaking with him before publishing. And try to do better next time!

    • Tom Muir

      Sounds like an idea to consider if this will get rid of it with no self-incrimination backfire or liability.