about the Crookes vs. OpenPolitics case

Why this case matters.

  • it is one of a batch of libel suits in which Wayne Crookes has, figuratively speaking, put the internet on trial for defamation. Apart from the 9 (mostly former) Green Party activists being sued, defendants now include Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, MySpace, PBwiki, P2Pnet.net who hosted the wikis, listserves, and blogs that discussed Crookes actions.
  • This case directly impacts the legal standing of all political discussion boards and list serves in Canada and the continued use of the internet as a venue for open political debate in Canada.
  • It has the potential to further establish Canada as a haven for SLAPP lawsuits.

The Green Party back story in 2 minutes or less.

  • Wayne Crookes is a relatively wealthy individual who was the (unpaid) manager of the Green Party of Canada from 2004 to 2006. He was also the person who loaned the party hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Crookes background was that of a businessman, not that of an activist - unlike the vast majority of volunteers who had built the party Crookes had no experience working within a grassroots democracy.
  • After the 2004 election, tensions within the party grew over how the new party was being managed - many volunteers objected to what was described as an "autocratic takeover" of the party. GPC Council Crisis
  • Within the Green Party, Crookes was closely allied with former Leader Jim Harris and Dermod Travis, the former Head of Media.
  • Michael Pilling (the founder of the living platform which evolved into Openpolitics.ca) was the Head of Platform from 2003 until early 2005.
  • Crookes, Harris and Travis worked in early 2005 to drive out many of their political opponents who were calling for more accountability, internal transparency and a "new" approach to politics. In doing so, Crookes and his allies were advised by former Conservative Party operatives Tom Jarmyn and David Scrymgeour.
  • At the 2006 Green Party Convention, Elizabeth May defeated Crookes' favored candidate David Chernushenko. With the leadership change and changes to the party's Governing Council, Crookes and his associates fell from influence, and soon left the Party.
  • Crookes accelerated his legal tactics after he and his associates had left or been removed from their Green Party posts. Most of the activists he has sued can not afford legal representation, and because the suits are in BC, they can not even represent themselves without considerable travel expenses.

My Response as Editor

(A comment by Michael Pilling)

To my knowledge I've responded to every complaint about content in openpolitics.ca, upholding the terms of use and administrator guidelines. I took fairness seriously. In response to complaints (Crookes' specifically), i introduced a right to refactor in July 2005 - which gave the subjects of pages authority to change and lock the content if they felt they were being unfairly treated. Crookes was notified about this privilege in July 2005 when he first complained about the content. I do not know with certainty that Wayne Crookes has ever edited a wiki page anywhere, or ever taken advantage of many requests to participate in an open debate with his critics.

I hid away many pages about the green party that had been created because they were no longer "in scope" for openpolitics.ca. GPC Council Crisis was left public because it contained an internal history of the Green Party that should serve as a warning for future democracy activists.