Brandon Gabriel. (Black Press Media files)

Lawyers argue over truth of “threat” in Langley lawsuit filings

A prominent artist is suing a Langley Township councillor for defamation

Lawyers for a Langley artist and a Township councillor have continued filing documents arguing over whether or not a social media comment was a threat in a lawsuit was launched last fall.

Artist Brandon Gabriel is suing Township Councillor Eric Woodward for defamation.

None of the statements filed by lawyers for either side has been tested in court.

The matter goes back to a 2017 Facebook post, in which Gabriel was critical of Woodward’s development of commercial properties in Fort Langley.

“The town of Squamish reminds me of Fort Langley 20 years ago,” Gabriel wrote. “Don’t f**k this up Squamish.” The post then suggested that if anyone there saw Woodward “sniffing around” they should “shoot him on sight.”

Woodward reported the post to the RCMP, but officers contacted Gabriel and ultimately decided the matter didn’t rise to the level of a real threat.

Gabriel told the Langley Advance Times he removed the post and offered an apology to Woodward through the RCMP.

READ MORE: Kwantlen artist sues Langley Township councillor for defamation

But Gabriel launched the lawsuit in 2019 alleging defamation.

Not long after Gabriel’s initial post, Woodward posted on his own Facebook page saying he had been threatened. He also said he considered Gabriel “to be mentally unstable” at a meeting of the Fort Langley BIA in 2017.

Woodward was elected to Township council in 2018.

In a response to Gabriel’s lawsuit filed with the B.C. Supreme Court, Woodward’s lawyers offered their client’s version of events, arguing it was true that Gabriel “committed the criminal offence of uttering threats.”

The response also says the words are “fair comment in good faith” on a matter of public interest, “namely the public statements of a prominent Kwantlen First Nation artist and activist.”

Woodward denied being motivated by malice, and also denied that Gabriel has suffered any loss or injury due to the allegedly defamatory statements. Gabriel had said being accused of threatening had cost him art commissions.

Gabriel’s lawyer filed a response later in October alleging that Woodward’s version of events is false.

“It is a material fact the plaintiff [Gabriel] was never charged, let alone convicted in relation to his September 16, 2017 Facebook publication,” the response says.

The two sides have yet to meet in court.

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