A civil trial introduced by former Alberta chief health-related examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau screeched to a halt Friday soon after previous provincial justice minister Jonathan Denis threatened to sue Sauvageau for defamation based mostly on her sworn testimony to day.
Sauvageau was the province’s top forensic pathologist from mid-2011 right up until she was notified in late 2014 that her agreement would not be renewed the upcoming yr.
The trial started final Friday. Sauvageau is suing the province for $7.6 million in damages for loss of money and rewards. An earlier version of the fit named Denis as a defendant in his capacity as justice minister, but his title was dropped from it immediately after he resigned from politics in 2015.
Sauvageau’s lawyer, Allan Garber, instructed courtroom Friday morning that on Thursday night time he acquired an emailed letter from Calgary law firm Kyle Shewchuk, symbolizing Denis. Shewchuk is a attorney at Calgary-primarily based Guardian Legislation Group, in which Denis is a founding lover.
Garber examine parts of the letter aloud in court docket. CBC Information has received a copy of the letter.
“Your client…has engaged in a seven-yr marketing campaign of defamation and harassment as versus Mr. Denis,” the letter states. “We have been carefully seeing Dr. Sauvageau’s recent trial and are informed that … Dr. Sauvageau’s defamation of Mr. Denis has continued unabated.”
It continued: “Mr. Denis is a respected and renowned law firm and small business particular person and will not tolerate these tortious actions versus him. These actions will have to forthwith cease and we reserve the ideal to refer to this correspondence ought to Dr. Sauvageau’s defamation go on.”
Courtroom of Queen’s Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma instructed court she has never witnessed nearly anything like the letter in her 25 many years on the bench and 25 yrs in personal authorized follow.
Sulyma claimed the letter is “unprecedented.” The choose requested Garber to file an order directing Denis and his law firm to surface ahead of her in man or woman on Monday afternoon.
The letter states Guardian Regulation Group is investigating defamation motion towards Sauvageau and options to buy transcripts from the courtroom circumstance.
“We seem ahead to hearing from you and belief you will advise your customer to govern herself accordingly,” the letter states.
Sauvageau did not return to the witness stand Friday.
‘Fearful’ to testify
Sauvageau submitted an affidavit with the courtroom Friday in response to the letter from the law business symbolizing Denis.
In it, she insisted she has never ever defamed Denis, but said the warning has experienced a chilling influence.
She claimed she remains fearful to give proof in the demo even even though her lawyer has advised her she’s secured due to the fact her sworn testimony is privileged.
“I can’t afford to pay for to protect a defamation lawsuit,” Sauvageau wrote.
“I am nonetheless fearful that I might be sued by Jonathan Denis, Q.C.,” Sauvageau mentioned in the letter. “The fiscal consequences of a lawsuit frighten me particularly due to the fact I do not have a task.”
Sauvageau’s law firm explained the letter from the law firm representing Denis as an improper threat.
“This isn’t really coming from any person who could not know about the integrity of trials and the worth of not badgering or harassing witnesses,” Garber reported.
“This comes from the former minister of justice … I think that’s an affront to the integrity of the trial method.”
Craig Neuman, a attorney symbolizing the provincial govt, confident the court docket that his purchasers had no information or involvement with the defamation threat.
“I know it will be evident to the court, but I will not act for Mr. Denis,” Neuman stated.
‘You are not able to be sued’
A College of Alberta regulation professor mentioned he’s shocked a attorney and a former justice minister would make the form of statements contained in the letter.
“If you are a witness in a civil or a prison demo, you are unable to be sued on the foundation of everything you say underneath oath in court,” Steven Penney explained to CBC News. “There are no exceptions. It is existed in the regulation for at least 100 to 150 yrs.
“And it really is some thing that really should be regarded by all attorneys as getting a incredibly apparent rule.”
Late on Friday afternoon, a different attorney hired by Denis responded to a ask for for remark from CBC News to say, “We disagree with the characterization by Dr. Sauvageau and her counsel with regards to the April 7, 2022 letter.”