(CP) – A stay-at-home mother of three who created a website to alert the government about allegedly dangerous environmental problems in her southwestern Ontario neighbourhood is facing a $2 million libel suit by one of the developers she reported on.
Louisette Lanteigne of Waterloo, Ont., said she grew sick of what she saw during construction in her new subdivision and what appeared to be questionable building practices and labour-code violations.
She said she was constantly keeping her kids and their friends out of trouble, as they would keep running into hazards around their neighbourhood. She petitioned city council and got help but new problems would appear as quickly as the old ones got fixed, she said.
“They call me an environmental activist, but I see myself as more of a mom who’s just trying to be heard,” said the 36-year-old mother of three girls aged 21 months, nine and 12.
“My kids were at risk and nobody helped me, and I’m worried about other kids too, that’s the bottom line,” she said in a telephone interview, breaking into tears. “Nobody protected me and now I’m getting sued.”
She launched her website in April to document her complaints and as a means for the province’s Environment and Labour ministries to view the evidence she collected. She made about a dozen postings with photos and stories of sightings around her area.
Her efforts led to letters and kudos from various government officials for reporting alleged violations. Then-environment minister Leona Dombrowsky wrote her to say, “Your advocacy on behalf of your neighbourhood is commendable and I encourage you to contact the ministry . . .to report any further incidents.”
Environment Ministry spokesman John Steele said work by people like Lanteigne is of great value because there aren’t enough ministry workers available to spot every infraction.
“Obviously we can’t have staff everywhere all the time, so we depend on the public out there as surrogate eyes and ears for the ministry,” Steele said. “They’re an important part of the ministry’s work.”
But not everyone was happy with her reports.
On Sept. 16, Lanteigne received news that she was being sued for libel by developer Activa Holdings Inc., one of the largest developers in the region.
The statement of claim said “the malicious, high-handed and arrogant conduct of the Defendant warrants an award of punitive or exemplary damages to ensure that the Defendant is appropriately punished for her conduct and deterred from such conduct in the future.”
The company sought $2 million and an order to have the allegedly libellous material taken offline.”
I am very curious to see where this all leads. There is a tremendous amount of activity and uncertainty regarding the blogging world and it seems that we are in the very early stages of determining what rights bloggers are entitled to.