Surrey businessmen file defamation lawsuit in dust-up over $200,000 B.C. government grant
A former member of Simon Fraser University’s board of governors and a former director of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority are suing internet radio broadcaster Media Waves Communications Inc. and several others, claiming they were defamed in online postings and radio call-in shows that falsely accused them of misappropriating grant money doled out by the B.C. government.
Jagmohan Singh, Satnam Johal and the New Horizons Village Society filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on January 10. The defendants include Media Waves, New York-based Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc., affiliate Way Broadcasting Licensee LLC, radio hosts Ashiana Khan and Kuljeet Kaur and Surrey-based community organizer Sukhi Sandhu.
According to the claim, the New Horizons Village Society, of which Singh and Johal are directors, received a $200,000 grant from the B.C. government in March 2017 to conduct a feasibility study on building a community centre to serve seniors in the Fraser Valley and Surrey.
In October 2017, defendant Sukhi Sandhu published a statement on his Facebook page alleging the plaintiffs received the grant despite “any professional experience or track record in seniors’ health care.” Later, in November 2017, Sandhu posted another statement alleging that “unethical” behaviour was tarnishing the image of the South Asian community.
“This type of grant awarding is an insult to all those non-profit organization who have tirelessly worked to improve our society,” Sandhu wrote, quoted at length in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs claim Sandhu refused to retract the statements and apologize; instead he allegedly “changed his Facebook settings so that his publications concerning the plaintiffs were no longer published to the world at large but only published to his Facebook friends,” the claim states.
Meanwhile, Singh, a former candidate for the BC Liberal Party who ran unsuccessfully in Surrey-Fleetwood in 2009, claims defendants Khan and Kaur broadcast further defamatory statements falsely accusing him and Johal of corruption in several Punjabi radio broadcasts on KVRI 1600 AM, which originates in Washington state but reaches the Lower Mainland both online and over the airwaves.
The defendants allegedly refused to apologize and retract the allegations, and instead “embarked on a campaign of defamatory statements and false allegations,” the claim states.
Late last month, the Vancouver Sun reported that the B.C. government requested a progress update on the status of the grant money when it came out that the plaintiffs had not yet spent any of the money.
Singh, Johal and the society seek an injunction to halt futher publications of the alleged defamatory statements, and unspecified general, aggravated, special and punitive damages for defamation.
The allegations have not been proven or tested in court, and the defendants had not responded to the claim by press time.