5 questions you may have about Michelle Latimer's lawsuit
Updated: May 30, 2021
No legal advice is contained in this post. The details are taken from Latimer’s statement of claim.
What is the Latimer's lawsuit
Latimer is an individual alleged to have misrepresented her claims to indigeneity and benefitted materially for many years in terms of accolades and funds/grants for her work. Various CBC articles were written that documented her claims and as a result, Latimer alleged these are defamatory and false, issuing libel notices to CBC. To date CBC has not issued a retraction nor apology. She is claiming this and seeking $200,000 in damages.
What is a statement of claim?
A statement of claim is a legal document that outlines material facts to be relied on in a proceeding, such as Latimer’s proceeding. The statement of claim kicks off the litigation process, or what some may understand to be a law suit. Flowing from this, the process begins and the defendants and other parties if any would file their responses, either a counter claim (a claim against the plaintiff or Latimer in this case), another claim against a third party (if connected), and/or a statement of defence.
Why did she only claim $200,000 in damages? That seems kind of low.
Latimer filed a statement of claim under a specific procedure that is supposed to reduce legal costs and reduce court delays. Under this procedure, which is called the simplified procedure, the party claiming damages is limited to a certain amount, which is up to $200,000. Mediation is likely mandatory under this procedure because she proposed the proceeding be heard in Toronto and because there are limits on time spent at trial, parties may be persuaded to limit the types of evidence they file (i.e. expert evidence). The time spent at discovery is also limited. Discovery (or what you may hear American-based TV shows call “deposition”) is a step in a litigation proceeding or a law suit where one party gets to question the other party under oath to either 1) seek to discover what the other side has to say about the matter; 2) seek to undermine the other side or 3) seek admissions and promote settlements. In any event, not all cases go to trial.
What about these discussions on expert evidence and issues around sovereignty and traditional governance structures?
Expert evidence is a certain type of evidence that is used in a proceeding which must meet a specific test before it is admitted. Simply calling yourself an expert and expecting your testimony to be used in a court proceeding is not permitted. There are steps involved. In other words, not just anyone can claim they are an expert. The expert in a court proceeding has “a duty to the court to give fair, objective, and non-partisan opinion evidence.” The expert’s evidence is usually put to test in cross examination and often during these cross examinations, the expert is cross examined on their ability to provide fair, objective and non-partisan evidence. For Latimer, she would have to prove each of the claims in her case. Some of which include that she is a self-identifying Algonquin Metis.
What are some of Latimer’s claims and what is the big issue?
She claims she is from a town or has connections to that town. She claims that, oddly again, her claims to indigeneity are a result of Maniwaki’s geographical closeness to a First Nation, Kitigan Zibi, the “best-known” community in which “seemed the best way for her to specifically situate her heritage.” In other words, she thought or implied she could lay claim to connection of a First Nation because it was close to a town that she had ties to as a Metis person. She claims she is emotionally harmed and will be in the future.