The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) must face a defamation lawsuit by a U.S. charity alleging the publicly funded news outlet repeatedly aired false claims that it deceived its donors, a Washington, D.C., federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss on Tuesday rejected the CBC’s bid to dismiss the case on the grounds that a Canadian court would be the more appropriate venue.
WE Charity, which once operated in Canada but is suing through its U.S. affiliate based in upstate New York, alleged in its February 2022 complaint that the CBC knowingly aired false claims that the nonprofit inflated the number of schoolhouses it had built in Kenya and deceived donors about how their money was being spent, among other things.
A CBC spokesperson said Wednesday that the network does not comment on pending litigation but “stands by its story and is fully prepared to defend this case.”
A lawyer for WE Charity, Joseph Kroetsch of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, said in a statement that the ruling was an “an important first win.”
“WE Charity’s donors and those who rely on its work deserve to see for themselves the evidence that CBC lied about the charity despite knowing the harm those lies would cause,” Kroetsch said.
WE Charity alleges the CBC’s hour-long investigative story about it advanced false claims about its finances and projects that were contradicted by the network’s own reporting and information WE Charity provided.
The nonprofit also alleges in its 230-page complaint that the CBC used fabricated quotes and misleading editing to support its “preconceived narrative.”
WE Charity became a household name in Canada after being embroiled in a 2020 political scandal implicating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who failed to disclose that WE Charity had paid his family speaking fees when his government awarded the nonprofit a major contract.
Canada’s ethics commission later cleared Trudeau of any wrongdoing.
The scandal, which forced WE Charity to wind down its Canadian operations, is unrelated to the lawsuit, but the nonprofit alleges it motivated the CBC to “sensationalize” its reporting.
The CBC’s motion to dismiss did not address the merits of WE Charity’s claims but argued that a Canadian court would be the more appropriate forum.
(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Aurora Ellis)