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Judge finds no documentation to support Global News’ reporting on Han Dong allegations

An Ontario Superior Court judge has found no documented evidence to support allegations made against former Liberal MP Han Dong in series of Global News stories last year.

The judge made the comments as he rejected an application from Corus Entertainment to throw out Dong’s lawsuit against the news service, saying it is in the public interest to hear the case.

“The matter of Mr. Dong’s communications with the Chinese are worthy of the freedom of expression of an open court system,” Justice Paul Perell said in his judgment Wednesday.

The Global report from early last year cited unidentified sources and suggested Dong privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat to hold off on freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who were being held in arbitrary detention in China.

As a consequence of the story, Dong’s reputation and life in politics were destroyed, Perell said in his judgment.

Dong left the Liberal caucus in March 2023 to sit as an Independent. He said he was looking to clear his name after those and other allegations related to foreign interference emerged.

He has denied the allegations against him and filed a lawsuit against Global, its parent company Corus and several journalists just weeks after the story ran.

“While we are disappointed in the decision, we are encouraged by the recognition of foreign government interference as a matter of public interest in Justice Perell’s ruling,” Corus said in a statement Thursday.

“As the matter remains before the courts, we will not comment further at this time.”

Ruling raises concerns about documentation

Wednesday’s ruling spelled out concerns about what it described as a lack of documentation to support the investigation behind the news report.

“The defendants have no tangible and no documentary corroboration of the information derived from the confidential sources about the conversation between Dong and the Chinese Consul General,” the ruling said.

Perell found the reporter who wrote the story did not see a transcript of the conversation between Dong and the diplomat and did not keep all of the notes that were used as part of the reporting process.

The ruling said the notes the reporter did keep, based on conversations with sources, do not contain any reference to Dong advising a Chinese diplomat to “delay” or “hold off” on releasing the two men.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor pictured in the gallery of the House of Commons.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor stand as they are recognized before President Joe Biden speaks to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa on Friday, Mach 24, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AP Photo)

He ordered Corus to reimburse Dong for his legal fees, arguing that Corus’s application to throw out the lawsuit resembled an abuse of court processes.

In a statement issued Thursday, Dong said Global should apologize and retract the reporting.

“Until they do, I will fight to clear my name in the courts,” he said.

Global’s story was part of a wave of reports on foreign interference that grew into a major political controversy. In response, the government appointed former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur to investigate allegations of foreign interference.

The judge noted that Johnston concluded Global’s reporting on the issue was “false.”

A subsequent, ongoing federal inquiry into foreign interference in Canada’s elections also heard evidence about the call between Dong and the Chinese diplomat, but the commission hasn’t released any findings or conclusions about what took place.

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