Book Reviews, the Common Law Tort of Defamation, and the Suppression of Scholarly Debate

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Source Publication

German Law Journal. Volume 11, Number 6 (2010), p. 656-670.


Academic Freedom; Canada; Criminal Libel; Critical Scholarly Work; Defamation Law; Fair Comment; Libel Chill; Libel Tourism; Publish


Professor Joseph Weiler will soon stand trial for criminal libel in France for refusing to remove a book review from a website associated with an academic journal for which he serves as editor. His case has disturbing implications for all those who write, edit, and publish critical scholarly work. In this article, I explore those implications for Canadian scholars at home and as members of a global scholarly community. I assess the likelihood of success of a similar complaint under Canadian defamation law, and I consider the impact of libel chill and libel tourism. I conclude that although the defendant in such a case would have a good chance of prevailing under Canadian law through the defense of fair comment, a threat to academic freedom remains that requires action on the part of individuals and institutions committed to its preservation and enhancement.

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Creative Commons License
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