The Supreme Court of Canada agreed Thursday to hear the case sparked by comments Arthur made on radio station CKVL in 1998 about cabbies of Arab and Haitian origin.
His 1998 remarks – that Arab and Haitian drivers were incompetent, that their cabs were dirty and that they obtained their licences by bribery – led to a class-action lawsuit filed by Fares Bou Malhab, president of a taxi drivers’ union, on behalf of over 1,000 Arab and Haitian cabbies.
A trial judge found Arthur’s comments to be racist and defamatory and ordered the radio host and Metromedia CMR, which owned CKVL at the time, to pay $220,000 in damages plus court costs.
The Quebec Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 split decision, later reversed the judgment.
It said that although Arthur’s remarks were distasteful and outrageous they were directed at groups rather than specific individuals and couldn’t give rise to monetary damages for defamation.
The appeal court concluded ordinary members of the public were unlikely to consider the claims credible.