Former Surrey council candidate loses bid to have judge toss developer’s defamation suit

Court ruling involves Brian Young and Bob Cheema, who has close political ties to mayor McCallum

Former Surrey council candidate Brian Young has lost a bid to have a judge toss out a defamation claim filed by developer Bob Cheema, who has close political ties to Mayor Doug McCallum.

Madam Justice Heather MacNaughton made the ruling Wednesday (March 17) in B.C. Supreme Court.

The decision, published on bccourts.ca, clears the path for the case to proceed to trial.

The lawsuit centres on six tweets by Young that Cheema claims to be false and defamatory. Young denies this.

Young had sought dismissal of Cheema’s defamation claim on the basis that it is an action commenced to limit his participation in public debate on a matter of public interest.

Justice MacNaughton has ruled otherwise.

“In the context of the record before me, and the stage of the proceedings, I am satisfied that Mr. Cheema has established, on a balance of probabilities, that the harm he has suffered or is likely to suffer as a result of Mr. Young’s expression is sufficiently serious that the public interest in permitting his defamation action to continue outweighs the public interest in protecting Mr. Young’s expression,” MacNaughton ruled.

In an earlier court filing, Young alleged that Cheema had told him “on or about August 2018” he had already picked the police chief for Surrey’s new police force – a deputy police chief of the Vancouver Police Department.

In a statement emailed to news media Friday (March 19), Cheema said he has “worked for decades to establish my business integrity and community involvement, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court of British Columbia recognizes my right to protect that legacy.

“Following Brian Young’s refusal to apologize for and retract his defamatory statements, all I have ever pursued is my day in court, and this decision now allows me that opportunity.”

Cheema said freedom of speech should never serve as a platform for irresponsible attacks on an individual’s reputation. “I hope that this decision will offer a lesson that political involvement is not a licence to engage in unfounded character assassination,” he stated.

• RELATED STORY, from October 2020:

Defamation lawsuit defendant claims developer told him he ‘controls’ South Asian media

with files from Tom Zytaruk