ONTARIO: Veteran Canadian broadcaster Terry Milewski has lost the first round of a major defamation case at the Superior Court of Ontario, Canada, to Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) after admitting before the judge that he had no proofs that Pakistan was funding and supporting the pro-Khalistan group. The SFJ had brought defamation case against the veteran CBC journalist Terry Milewski and conservative leaning public policy think tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) over baseless allegations that SFJ and its Khalistan Referendum campaign was a project run, controlled, funded, influenced and financed by Pakistan authorities. According to court papers, Terry Milewski wrote a reporter called “Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan” which published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI). Both Mr Terry Milewski and the MLI had attempted to get the defamation case of SFJ dismissed by the Superior Court of Ontario but the presiding judge Justice William Black, after reviewing the extensive evidence, ruled that the claim of defamation brought by SFJ will be allowed to proceed to a trial and ordered the defendants Terry and MLI to pay to the SFJ cost for the legal fee. The ruling by Justice William Black means the defamation claim will be allowed to proceed to trial unless the plaintiff SFJ and the defendants Terry-MLI reach a settlement. The ruling is seen as a major success as Terry Milewski and MLI had hoped that the case will be thrown out and their campaign against Pakistan will continue but the court didn’t let that happen. Terry Milewski openly confesses his allegiance to Indian government and doesn’t hide the fact that he has links with the Indian establishment and its believed that he wrote the report on behest of the Indian govt for the think tank that is known to be under Indian influence. The MLI published the defamatory report on 9 September 2020 by Terry Milewski titled, “Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan” in which serious allegations against Sikhs For Justice and its leadership were made. The report claimed that the campaign for an independent Sikh state, and specifically, the Referendum 2020 campaign organized by SFJ, was not a project on behalf of Sikh people, but instead was a “project of Pakistan.” The Report allged that SFJ was influenced or controlled by Pakistan; that its referendum campaign was being driven by Pakistan; that SFJ does not actually represent Sikh people; that it serves Pakistan and speaks for Pakistan; and finally, that Pakistan is SFJ’s patron and sets limits on its campaign. The SFJ filed a defamation lawsuit against Terry and MLI claiming that allegations of SFJ-Pakistan nexus, funding and influence are totally baseless, false and without evidence and have caused serious damage to SFJ’s reputation as human rights NGO working for the cause of self-determination for Sikh people and creation of independent homeland Khalistan in the Indian region of Punjab. The defendants tried to get the claim dismissed by filing what is called anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) motion to get the SFJ’s lawsuit dismissed at the very initial stage on the basis of public debate, fair comment and freedom of press. The Ontario court held that defendants could not establish responsible communication on matters of public interest because they failed to conduct due diligence. The court further held that the defense of “fair comment” is also not available to the defendants Terry and MLI in this case because the words used in allegations against SFJ are factual in nature and not commentary and in alternative, they are not supported by facts. In short, the court ruled that the lawsuit is a legitimate defamation action brought in circumstances where Sikhs for Justice, a non-violent organization advocating for Sikh self-determination, should have the right to pursue a remedy. On cross-examination, Milewski conceded a lack of evidence in support of key facts. Milewski conceded that he does not know whether Pakistan is involved in any way in the SFJ’s referendum campaign. Milewski said he has no evidence to suggest SFJ is financially supported by Pakistan and that he has no evidence of any organizational involvement between Pakistan and SFJ. The Canadian author conceded that he does not know if Pakistan is involved or has any influence in SFJ’s Khalistan Referendum campaign. After a leading Pakistani media group published the news, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) remained quiet but Terry Milewski took to Twitter and continued to claim his report was right. He wrote on Twitter that the “report was entirely correct, and remains so, firmly rooted in evidence”. The article had alleged that Americal lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who leads Sikhs For Justice, had “undying solidarity with Pakistan”. In the court cross-examination, Milewski accepted that the fact that Pakistan and SFJ may share a common interest (in opposing India) but it does not mean one entity is influencing the other. Milewski also conceded that he was aware of other communications between Pannun and SFJ in which SFJ has been harshly critical of Pakistan, as well as a recent dispute between SFJ and Pakistan, neither of which was mentioned in the report as it would go against the bias of the report. In the court, Milewski had attempted to argue that his report presented his “opinion” rather than “facts” but Justice Black recognized that Milewski’s public tweets defended the Article as factual and this was inconsistent with his position on the motion. Milewski also attempted to argue the defence of “responsible communication” but Justice Black found that a trial judge may reject this defence on the basis of lack of diligence by Milewski who did not even contact Sikhs for Justice for comment before publishing the false statements making accusations of Pakistan funding for the Sikh group without any evidence. Canadian Court’s ruling in favor of SFJ came just days before the group kickstarted on 31 October from London, UK, the voting in its groundbreaking innovative initiative of holding first ever global referendum on the question of Khalistan. Over 30000 Sikhs from around London showed up to vote on the opening day of Khalistan Referendum in London which prompted PM Modi to leave behind other issues and instead raise the SFJ-Khalistan Referendum issue with his British counterpart during their brief meeting at COP26.