To Sue or Not to Sue for Defamation: Ontario Libel Notices and Limitation Periods

  • June 21, 2022
  • David Potts

Navigating a Minefield at the Start of Proceedings

Many plaintiffs find their libel actions barred right at the start for failure to comply with the notice provisions of the Libel and Slander Act ("LSA") when required. However, sometimes the notice provisions have absolutely no application at all. 

This article will briefly cover four issues: 

  1. What publications are covered by the LSA?
  2. Are online versions of publicaitons covered by the LSA?
  3. What online publications are not covered by the LSA?
  4. At what stage of the proceedings is the determination made?

1.    Relevant Sections of the LSA 

Notice of Action 

(1) No action for libel in a newspaper or in a broadcast lies unless the plaintiff has, within six weeks after the alleged libel has come to the plaintiff’s knowledge, given to the defendant notice in writing, specifying the matter complained of, which shall be served in the same manner as a statement of claim or by delivering it to a grown-up person at the chief office of the defendant. 

Issuance of claim 

An action for a libel in a newspaper or in a broadcast shall be commenced within three months after the libel has come to the knowledge of the person defamed, but, where such an action is brought within that period, the action may include a claim for any other libel against the plaintiff by the defendant in the same newspaper or the same broadcasting station within a period of one year before the commencement of the action. 

Application of ss. 5 (1), 6

7 Subsection 5 (1) and section 6 apply only to newspapers printed and published in Ontario and to broadcasts from a station in Ontario. 

Publication of name of publisher, etc.

(1) No defendant in an action for a libel in a newspaper is entitled to the benefit of sections 5 and 6 unless the names of the proprietor and publisher and the address of publication are stated either at the head of the editorials or on the front page of the newspaper.