SUMMARY -- In 2008 the student union released a public report about systemic racism at the University of Ottawa. The University asked a black professor expert to assess the student report in a responding public report. The expert found that there was no basis for affirming systemic racism at the University of Ottawa. A white former physics professor runs a blog critical of the University of Ottawa and of its (white) president. The physics professor was critical of the expert's report in a 2008 blogpost. After the student union released relevant access to information documents in 2011, the physics professor blogged again stating that the access to information documents suggested that the expert had acted as the house negro of the university president. The expert obtained funding for a lawsuit from the university president, and then sued the physics professor for $1 million in a defamation action, without disclosing the university funding. The university was later obliged to disclose its involvement and the president's role in the on-going lawsuit.
Denis Rancourt is a former tenured Full Professor of physics, University of Ottawa. He has run the "U of O Watch" blog, critical of the University of Ottawa, since 2007. Rancourt was dismissed from his full professorship in 2009, after 23 years. The dismissal is presently in binding labour arbitration where the hearings are scheduled to continue until June 2013.
In 2008, the student union at the University of Ottawa published a report ("the SAC report", Student Appeal Centre) alleging systemic racism in the University's treatment of academic fraud, based on the SAC's data and on case studies. This SAC report immediately attracted media attention.
The University asked tenured Assistant Professor of law Joanne St. Lewis, then Director of the University's Human Rights Research and Education Centre, to write an evaluation ("the St. Lewis report") of the SAC report. The completed St. Lewis report was announced on the University web site and Professor St. Lewis did media interviews about her report.
The St. Lewis report was critical of the SAC report, found, in part, that
"The short answer for this evaluator on whether there is systemic racism in the administration of the Academic Fraud process at the University of Ottawa is: I don’t know. What I do know, is that this report does not establish this in any measurable or analytically plausible fashion."
and made ten recommendations, as "The Way Forward".
In 2008, Rancourt made a critical assessment of the St. Lewis report on his blog. The post was entitled "Rock Administration Prefers to Confuse “Independent” with “Internal” Rather Than Address Systemic Racism".
In 2011, the SAC posted documents about the St. Lewis report, which it had obtained via an access to information request, to the SAC blog.
In 2011, Rancourt posted another blog article critical of the St. Lewis report, based on the newly released access to information documents. This second blog article was entitled "Did Professor Joanne St. Lewis act as Allan Rock's house negro?" and it stated, in part (see p.9, HERE):
"The Student Appeal Centre (SAC) of the student union at the University of Ottawa today released documents obtained by an access to information (ATI) request that suggest that law professor Joanne St. Lewis acted like president Allan Rock's house negro when she enthusiastically toiled to discredit a 2008 SAC report about systemic racial discrimination at the university."
The later blogpost gave rise to a $1 million defamation lawsuit against Rancourt, initiated by St. Lewis, see June 23, 2011 Statement of Claim.
As one defence, Rancourt argued that if this lawsuit was a proxy lawsuit by the University, then it violated his Charter rights by suppressing his criticism of a public institution, see p.20-21 of the Statement of Defence.
Rancourt sought to discover if the University of Ottawa was funding the St. Lewis litigation. This question was pursued and even was asked at the University's Senate via a student senator's motion (LINK).
The University replied on October 25, 2011, via hired lawyer David Scott, that it was indeed funding the St. Lewis litigation against Rancourt. A report on the efforts to obtain this reply is here: LINK. Scott's letter states, in part:
"Furthermore, your outrageously racist attack upon her takes this case out of the ordinary and, in the view of the University, alone creates a moral obligation to provide support for her in defence of her reputation."
Following this reply, Rancourt brought a motion that the action be stayed or dismissed for abuse of process (see Notice of Motion). The later motion is presently in process (LINK to report about motion).
As part of the later "champerty" motion, Rancourt cross-examined university president Allan Rock who testified under oath that he had made the decision in April 2011 to fund the St. Lewis lawsuit "without a cap" (with no funding limit) from the University's operating budget (see Transcript of the cross-examination).
Rancourt's "champerty" motion will be heard on August 29, 2011, following Rancourt's on-going "refusals and productions" motion to obtain answers that the cross-examined witnesses have refused to give.
In the first day of Rancourt's "refusals and productions" motion, on June 20, 2012, Rancourt was not allowed to cross-examine a recent affiant put forward by the University of Ottawa to counter the "refusals and productions" motion. In addition, Rancourt had put forward an expert's affidavit to establish the authenticity of a document showing a March 2012 email communication from Allan Rock to St. Lewis' counsel Richard Dearden. The expert's affidavit was stated to be inadmissible for reasons that Rancourt expects will be explained in the Judge's decision about the "refusals and productions" motion.
The "refusals and productions" motion resumes in court on July 24, 2012.