Pharmacist must pay Manitoba regulatory body damages over ‘malicious,’ defamatory comments: judge

By | June 4, 2020

A Manitoba pharmacist must pay more than $150,000 in damages and stay away from the province’s regulatory body after writing “high-handed, oppressive and malicious” emails and social media posts, says a Court of Queen’s Bench ruling issued Wednesday.

The College of Pharmacists of Manitoba took Daren Jorgenson to court last March, seeking damages for defamatory comments he made over the last four years to multiple people and organizations.

Jorgenson alleges the actions or inactions of northern pharmacies led to the deaths of 24 Indigenous people in 2015 and 2016 and the college was involved in a “very widespread coverup,” the ruling says.

Jorgenson said the deaths were “documented,” but he never produced any documentation that supported his allegations, nor did he know the names of the 24 people or their causes of death.

In June 2016, Jorgensen filed a complaint with the college against the northern pharmacies about the alleged deaths.

“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 in this motion,” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Candace Grammond said in her decision.

“Mr. Jorgenson has advanced no evidence to support his beliefs.”

The college also claimed damages for harassment and nuisance over numerous emails to the college’s registrar, Susan Lessard-Friesen, and other staff and board members in ways that appeared intimidating and threatening, the decision says.

The college says it spent “hundreds of man hours” responding to the emails and had to increase security after Jorgenson showed up at the office.

“I’m satisfied that Mr. Jorgenson’s persistence was high-handed, oppressive and malicious,” Grammond’s ruling says.

Susan Lessard-Friesen, registrar of the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba, says the judgment speaks for itself. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

Jorgenson will have to pay $150,000 in damages, plus lawyer fees. 

He’s ordered not to have any contact with Lessard-Friesen or her replacement. He’s also not allowed to communicate with council members of the college or people who sit on committees established by the college in the course of their work or regarding the college or its business.

Jorgenson is banned from entering the college or going to any of its special meetings or the annual general meeting.

He also is barred from disseminating or distributing any comments or statements about the college or people who work there.

The College of Pharmacists of Manitoba is pleased with the decision, Lessard-Friesen said in an email.

“We believe it speaks for itself. As the college regulates pharmacy and pharmacists in Manitoba, our focus remains on protecting the public and promoting patient safety for all Manitobans,” Lessard-Friesen said.

Jorgenson said in an email to CBC News that he’ll appeal the decision.

“I never expected this fight to be short or easy, so we just keep marching forward. I am not discouraged from fighting on.”

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