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A Winnipeg pharmacist has been ordered to pay $150,000 in damages to the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba after he accused the regulatory body of covering up the deaths of 24 Indigenous people.
Daren Jorgenson filed a complaint with the college in 2016, alleging the "actions or inactions" of two pharmacies had resulted in the deaths of 24 Indigenous people in northern Manitoba.
Last year, the college sued Jorgenson for defamation, harassment and nuisance after he sent a series of emails to college personnel and engaged in other communications described as "intimidating and threatening" in content.
"I am satisfied that the college has established the essential element of defamation, because Mr. Jorgenson agrees that he made the comments about the college, in writing, to an audience," Queen’s Bench Justice Candace Grammond wrote in a 24-page decision released Wednesday.
"In addition, it is clear to me that the comments would tend to lower the college’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person, which means they are defamatory," she said.
Jorgenson provided the court with no evidence he had any direct knowledge of the deaths he accused the college of covering up, Grammond said.
"Although he repeatedly referred to the deaths as 'documented,' he has produced no documents regarding the deaths, including the names of the deceased individuals, the particulars of their deaths or cause of death, or any other information or documents that support his defences," she said.
The college attempted to investigate Jorgenson’s complaint, but he didn’t co-operate, declining to share documents or meet with an investigator, Grammond said.
In 2018, Jorgenson reported the deaths to RCMP, which closed its investigation the following year with no charges laid.
"While it appears that Mr. Jorgenson truly believes that deaths occurred, his subjective beliefs, in the absence of direct knowledge, are not evidence, and do not assist him," Grammond said.
Jorgenson’s persistence in advancing his claims "was high-handed, oppressive and malicious," she said.
Jorgenson said he intends to appeal the ruling.
"It is appalling how systemic racism against First Nation Canadians is handled by Canadian society and courts," he said.
Grammond’s ruling permanently prohibits Jorgenson from contacting the college registrar, her replacement or college staff. He was also ordered to pay the college’s court costs.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.
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Updated on Thursday, June 4, 2020 at 7:49 PM CDT: minor edits