When comparing the seminal Supreme Court of Canada defamation decisions of the 1990s and 2000s, it is apparent that the Court’s view on the importance of protecting reputation has changed. Recent decisions hail the importance of using freedom of expression as a countervailing interest against the oft-criticized strictures of the common law of defamation. Fundamental alterations in the nature of mass and interactive media and in the nature of reputation are two phenomena informing this change. Increased attention to the theorizing of “reputation,” the interest whose protection animates the entire tort of defamation, reveals that reputation is itself a highly constructed, contextual and malleable artifact. This article proposes recasting the tort of defamation into two different tracks: one for public figures, who pose the highest risk of abusing the tort, and one for private plaintiffs, whose reputational interest is akin to traditional notions of reputation.
Tarantino, Bob, Chasing Reputation: The Argument for Differential Treatment of ‘Public Figures’ in Canadian Defamation Law (2010). 48 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 595, 2010.