An Ontario Court of Queens bench judge has ordered Daishowa Inc. to pay the Friends of the Lubicon just one dollar towards the group's court costs. The judge issued his decision Wednesday after an Oct. 26 appearance where both sides argued positions on who should pay court costs.
The Friends of the Lubicon, says spokesman Kevin Thomas, went into the proceeding hopeful that the paper manufacturing company would be directed to pay all of the $380,000 it cost the Friends to defend themselves against the lawsuit.
Usually, Thomas said, the losing side pays the opponent's legal costs. The Friends received a favorable judgment earlier this spring, allowing them to recommence a boycott that Daishowa's lawsuit put on ice for three years. The group, formed a decade ago to help protect the Peace River region Lubicon band's traditional territory until it achieves a land claims settlement, is disappointed with the decision.
"The first ruling said yes, we have the right to boycott," Thomas said, "but this says that if you use that right, you have to be prepared to be run through the courts and have $400,000 behind you. You have to have money to be able to speak out."
While fund raising efforts covered the Friends' "hard expenses" like travel costs for [lawyers and witnesses] to attend the trial,the Sierra Legal Defense Fund picked up the bill for the Friends' legal representation.
If Daishowa doesn't have to reimburse the group for their costs, "generous Canadians end up footing the bill to defend the very important right to speak out," Thomas said.
"If a corporation tries to curtail rights and they aren't successful, they should pay the bill," he said, adding "for the (Sierra Legal Defense Fund) not to get paid means that is money they won't be able to use to help another group."
The one dollar won't actually be paid to the Friends.
Thomas says the award was used to cancel out the one dollar the Friends of the Lubicon were ordered to pay Daishowa for damages in the ruling that permits them to resume the boycott with some altered wording in the campaign.
"Nice and cute," he quipped, noting he is still waiting to receive the judge's written decision and review its reasoning.
Daishowa Inc. director of corporate affairs Tom Cochrane says the ruling reflects the fact that the paper manufacturing company "won a lot of things," in the lawsuit against the Friends.
"Each side has to pay their own costs - we've always talked about that - and if anyone should get costs, it should be us," Cochrane said, declining to state what the legal action cost the company.
Cochrane said he was surprised the Friends would even ask for costs, since they refused to pay Daishowa the one dollar the court told them to and showed contempt for the whole court proceeding.
"It's not like we're going to send a sheriff after them for one dollar," Cochrane said, "(but) they were very arrogant in the court room...They blurted right out they won't pay. I'm surprised they have the gall to go back and ask the court to do them a favor and award them some money,' Cochrane said.
Daishowa is appealing the part of the lawsuit ruling that allows boycott action to be taken against the customers that purchase paper products from the company. Protest campaigns should only be directed at Daishowa itself, the company has argued.
Delays in getting documents ready has, however, pushed back the court session that was expected to be held in January at least a couple months, Cochrane said.
Thomas says the Friends will move to have the appeal dismissed. The group, he said, planned on paying Daishowa its one dollar at the conclusion of all legal proceedings between the two parties.
The boycott was called off this summer when Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd. made a public commitment to not log in traditional Lubicon territory until the band's land claim negotiations are settled.
Daishowa has estimated the Friends of the Lubicon boycott campaign, begun in 1990, cost the company approximately $20 million in lost sales.