Mohamad Fakih and Walied Soliman made legal history. Now it’s harder for haters to have their way

Good for them and all of us:

Mohamad Fakih owns a restaurant chain and is a big Liberal backer.

Walied Soliman heads a law firm and chairs Conservative campaigns.

In their political tastes, the restaurateur and the lawyer couldn’t be more different.

But both are Muslims.

Which was enough for them to be targeted for hateful libels accusing them of being closet terrorists. Personally harangued and persecuted for no reason beyond their faith, they were publicly vilified and personally victimized.

Yet both refused to play victim. Today, each is victorious.

In two separate libel cases, they made legal history last month. By calling their persecutors to account — and forcing the legal system to act — they have made it harder for haters to get away with screaming bloody murder in public.

Soliman won a precedent-setting $500,000 defamation award against social media agitator Daniel Bordman, who had publicly accused him of harbouring crypto-Islamist terrorist links and hiding “secret” antisemitism. The case against Bordman was so compelling that the ruling came in a summary judgment (without going to full trial due to the damning evidence).

Separately, Fakih finally saw justice done when a failed Mississauga mayoral candidate, Kevin Johnston, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for contempt of court — after failing to abide by the terms of a $2.5 million libel judgment against him two years ago (and continuing to spew venom).

What unites Soliman and Fakih, apart from their shared faith and charitable works, is that both paid a personal price in public harassment for their high profiles. And for the sin of being successful in their work.

At the intersection of religion and Islamophobia, power and privilege, they found themselves at an inflection point. They could turn the other cheek, and let others fight the battle against bigotry, or they could push back against their persecutors.

“The first instinct is to ignore it,” Soliman told me. “It’s very easy for privileged people — who have the ability to fight — to say it isn’t worth it.”

But as chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada law firm, who has served as campaign chair for both the Ontario and federal Tories, Soliman knew he had no excuse to do nothing. The libels falsely claimed he had “connections to the Muslim Brotherhood” and wanted to impose Islamic “sharia law to … override Canadian law,” the judge noted.

“I hate being the victim, I hate that role,” Soliman said. “If we don’t fight those battles, then who is going to set the precedents?”

To silence his bilious antagonist, Soliman turned to a rival lawyer against whom he is often pitted in legal battles over mergers and acquisitions, but whose judgment he deeply respects: Jonathan Lisus not only agreed to take on the case, but insisted on doing it at no charge.

Let’s connect a few dots here — not conspiracies but connections: Lisus happens to be a Jewish lawyer who took on the case of Soliman, a Muslim lawyer, to shield him against the lies and libels of Bordman — a Jewish social media provocateur falsely accusing Soliman of antisemitism.

But there’s another link. Lisus also fought and won the libel action of Fakih, setting not one but two major precedents with cases that, combined, should give pause to all hate-mongers:

“If you are going to engage in defamatory hate speech, you can lose everything,” Soliman concludes.

Fakih came to Canada from war-torn Lebanon in 1996 (having covered that conflict at that very time as a foreign correspondent, I know where he’s coming from). He savoured the seeming paradise of his adopted country, and revelled in his spectacular success founding the Paramount Fine Foods chain.

But with paradise, and Paramount, came the bizarre torment from Johnston, the failed politician and provocateur (who placed second to Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, winning 13.5 per cent of the vote in 2017). Post-Lebanon, Fakih didn’t see it coming.

“I lived the Canadian dream, I always thought it would never happen in Canada,” he told me. “It was a shock, and it helped me grow up.”

Like many immigrants, Fakih wondered if he would somehow seem like an ungrateful troublemaker for pushing. But when he was called a child killer, with doctored pictures showing “blood on my face,” after hosting a Liberal party fundraiser for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017, he had to protect his family — and his fellow Canadians — from the injustices and indignities.

“I wanted to show them I would not stay silent, that I would stand up to bullying … and live with dignity in front of my children,” Fakih explains. “Coming from a country like Lebanon, I am not a victim, it’s my duty to take them on.”

He won the multimillion-dollar defamation judgment against Johnston in 2019, but it was a hollow victory. Unsurprisingly, Johnston never paid up, but he shockingly refused to shut up — continuing to defame him publicly.

“I thought there would be accountability,” Fakih said. And so he went back to court a second time, this time to hold the justice system itself to account — and won another victory with the jail sentence, four years after he first came under attack.

Fakih’s story does not yet have a happy ending, for it is seemingly never-ending — the bigotry keeps coming back. Just as he had to deal with a defendant who refused to stop libeling him, so too Soliman has had to contend with one Islamophobic attack after another — most recently in last year’s federal Conservative leadership race (best leave his attacker nameless lest he profit from the attention).

Still, the legal precedents that Fakih and Soliman have established, each in their own way, will make it easier for those who follow to win in court. The personal examples they have set will also make it harder for haters to have their way.

But it is the resilience they have shown — by refusing to be victims after being victimized for so long — that may be their lasting legacy. Singled out for being Muslims, they both stood their ground without losing faith — either in their religion, or their country.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/11/01/mohamad-fakih-and-walied-soliman-made-legal-history-now-its-harder-for-haters-to-have-their-way.html

Ezra Levant, Sun News Network host, ordered to pay $80,000 in libel case

Accountability. Words (and facts) matter:

But [Judge) Matheson found that at trial, Levant “repeatedly tried to minimize his mistakes and his lack of diligence.”

“The defendant makes a general assertion that none of the words complained of were defamatory due to the defendants reputation,” she wrote. “There is, however, ample evidence before me demonstrating express malice on the part of the defendant.”

Levant also appeared to have little regard for the facts, Matheson found.

“He did little or no fact-checking regarding the posts complained of, either before or after their publication….and with one exception, when he learned that he got his facts wrong, he made no corrections,” she wrote.

The fact that Levant himself is a lawyer ought to have made him aware of the “serious ramifications” of his words on Awan’s reputation, Matheson added.

“Yet, at trial, he repeatedly tried to minimize his mistakes and his lack of diligence,” she wrote.

Levant, meanwhile, wrote on his website that he is reviewing the ruling with his lawyer but plans to appeal “all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

He called the ruling a “shocking case of libel chill” and asked supporters to help him foot the bill for his appeal, which he estimates will cost at least $30,000.

Ezra Levant, Sun News Network host, ordered to pay $80,000 in libel case – Canada – CBC News.

And Jon Kay on Ezra’s ‘business model’ of serial slander:

Jonathan Kay: The weirdest thing about Ezra Levant is he still thinks he’s right