A Montreal judge ruled last week that the co-founder of a website that lists the names of people accused of sexual assault has the right to remain anonymous.
The Facebook page “Dis son nom,” which translates to “Say His Name,” has over 10,000 followers, and links to a website that lists the names of more than 1,000 people accused of sexual misconduct. It was launched this summer following a wave of Me Too accusations that spread throughout Quebec, particularly focused on people in the music and arts scene.
One of the two women who runs “Dis son nom” identified herself as former journalist and court illustrator Delphine Bergeron in an interview with Le Devoir earlier this month, in part because of a civil lawsuit. Jean-François Marquis, one of the men whose name was added to the list over the summer, is suing for $50,000 in damages — and for the the women running the site to be named.
While Bergeron made the decision to come forward, her co-founder — identified only as AA — wanted to stay anonymous, Radio-Canada reported.
“The people running this page don’t have the right to stay anonymous given that the list they published clearly identifies many people,” Marquis said in court documents.
His lawyer, Pierre-Hugues Miller, said the organizers of “Dis son nom” were trying to take justice into their own hands. “They put up a list of potential aggressors without any verification, without allowing both sides to be heard,” he argued.
But in a ruling last Friday, Judge Peter Kalichman disagreed.
The judge ruled that Bergeron’s co-founder had the right to remain anonymous because during the case the defence planned to submit evidence relating to AA’s personal life, including the fact that she herself is a victim of sexual violence.
Virginie Dufresne-Lemire, the lawyer defending Bergeron and AA, said Kalichman’s decision “demonstrates a lot of empathy towards the victims.” She said she plans to argue that the page is in the public interest, according to Radio-Canada.
In Quebec, truth isn’t necessarily protection against a libel suit, Montreal lawyer Sophie Gagnon previously told HuffPost. Gagnon works at Juripop, a Montreal clinic that offers free and confidential legal advice to anyone who’s witnessed or experienced sexual violence or harassment.
“If you speak things that harm the reputation of someone, and there wasn’t any public interest justifying you coming forward with those words, even if they were true you could be held responsible for the damage that was caused to [that person’s] reputation,” Gagnon explained.
But Dufresne-Lemire said she believes the page does benefit the public.
“We intend to demonstrate that there’s a public interest in publishing these names,” she said.
She’ll mount her defence 90 days from Friday’s ruling.