A blogger who boasts that his critiques of Hasidic leaders in Outremont have revealed “revolting” practices and flushed out “bugs” from darkened corners has successfully defended a libel suit brought against him by three prominent community leaders.
A Quebec Superior Court judge rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for $375,000 in damages, concluding that Pierre Lacerte’s commentary was acerbic but it was based on facts.
The Dec. 4 decision by Judge Claude Dallaire is the latest chapter in a six-year-old legal feud that has highlighted the sometimes tense relationship between Outremont’s growing Hasidic community and its non-Jewish neighbours.
Mr. Lacerte, who lives across the street from an ultra-orthodox synagogue, created his blog in 2007 and uses it to denounce what he considers to be the law-breaking and undue political influence of senior Hasidim.
Words are his only weapon
The blog reports frequently on such transgressions as double-parked cars outside the synagogue, renovations conducted without proper permits and chartered buses picking up passengers on residential streets. Mr. Lacerte alleges that Outremont’s borough council is in cahoots with the Hasidim and turns a blind eye to the law breaking.
For father-and-son real-estate developers Michael and Martin Rosenberg and Hasidic spokesman Alex Werzberger, the attacks became too much. Michael Rosenberg, president and CEO of the Rosdev Group, testified last January that Mr. Lacerte’s writings have damaged his reputation. And he alleged in an interview that the blog is anti-Semitic, accusing Mr. Lacerte of “stirring up a lot of problems” in Outremont.
Mr. Lacerte told the court that “words are his only weapon,” and the judgment lists examples of the artillery he levelled at Michael Rosenberg over the issue of illegal parking. He said the developer “likes to break the law,” calling him a “fanatic,” an “ultra-religious extremist,” “a Hasidic nabob” and the “righter of wrongs of the ghetto.”