Vexatious litigation

Victory for freedom of the press as Martineau ends lawsuit

$350,000 claim settled without apology or compensation of any kind
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The lawsuit launched against Ricochet in 2016 by Richard Martineau, a controversial columnist with Quebecor Media, is over.

As you know, we were ready. We wanted our day in court — for ourselves but also for freedom of the press and the rights of independent media outlets. We’ve been working tirelessly for weeks to prepare for what would have been a case without precedent in Quebec, regardless of the outcome.

But someone else was scared. Someone who did not want to be confronted with his own contradictions. Who was clearly not capable of proving the damages he claimed to have incurred, let alone the number of $350,000 he attached to them. Who did not want to be confronted by lawyers, by the media, by a judge. Because it is much easier to spout outrage from behind a computer screen or a radio microphone than it is to defend your actions in person, in front of the court and with all of Quebec watching.

Clearly he realized that his lawsuit was excessive and abusive, both in the amount requested and in the accusations he made against us and our collaborators. He, the so-called great defender of free speech who defends only his own.

No apologies

Ricochet, along with the author and illustrator of the article at the heart of the case, was always clear that we would not apologize for publishing a satirical piece criticizing a major public figure, a piece that fell squarely within the bounds of fair comment. Today, we are announcing that Martineau has agreed to end his lawsuit without receiving an apology or compensation of any kind. The joint release with this announcement can be read here.

From the beginning we have tried to be reasonable and mature in this case, despite the burden we have carried as a result of this lawsuit over the past three years. The courts have better things to do with their time than hear frivolous lawsuits, and so as much as we wanted our day in court with Richard Martineau, we decided to accept what amounts to his unconditional surrender. We come out of this saga victorious, and with our heads held high.

But this is a victory not only for us but also for freedom of the press, which applies equally to people with powerful platforms in the media world like Martineau, and to the media outlets and voices we hear less, like ours and those of our collaborators. Independent media also have rights and freedoms.

You made this possible

We always suspected that Martineau’s plan was never to take this case to court. Instead, we surmised, his goal was to bankrupt us with legal fees or force us into a settlement on his terms while using the case as fodder for his outrage machine.

Whatever his plan, it has backfired spectacularly.

When this case became public in 2016, Martineau was universally criticized in the press and accused of hypocrisy by many media commentators. We were able to recruit top-flight lawyers, including Éric Préfontaine and Julien Hynes-Gagné from Osler, as well as Madeleine Lamothe-Samson and Éric Bellemare from MLS Légal and Maryse Lapointe Avocate, who represented author Marc-André Cyr and illustrator Alexandre Fatta.

We would never have been able to wage this fight from start to finish without your tremendous support. Your outpouring of donations back in 2016, and the generosity of our lawyers, allowed us to build a defence team that mastered this case. We can never thank them, or you, enough.

But it wasn’t just your donations. You shared our articles about the case, and those of other media outlets who reported on the lawsuit, and although we do not have the media reach of Quebecor, our calls for support circulated enough, no doubt, to convince Martineau to back down. All that is thanks to you.

A bright future ahead

We know that many of you gave us money to go to battle. Know that we used this money wisely, court proceedings being very expensive, and we agreed to settle only when what was offered amounted to a total victory.

As we turn the page on this stressful and gruelling chapter that has followed us for the past three years, we can finally look into the future without the threat of disappearing and with our freedom of expression intact.

Several truly exciting projects are coming, you’ll hear about them very soon, and of course we will continue to publish the quality content you have come to expect from us. As you might have already heard, we recently won a national journalism award for our investigative reporting.

We are not afraid

Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for having supported us in this adventure. This total victory would not have been possible without you.

And what better way to celebrate Ricochet’s survival than to make a one-time or monthly recurring donation to support our work? Richard Martineau may have the backing of Quebec’s largest media empire, but we have you.

Click here, and help us do more of the type of journalism that enrages people like Martineau. In exchange we promise to keep calling out pundits and politicians who scapegoat Muslims and other minorities, without fear or favour.

Because we are Ricochet. And we are not afraid.

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