The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. A former Dawson City couple who sued two women for defamation and were awarded more than $800,000 in damages only to have the decision overturned have taken their case to the country’s highest court. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Former Dawson couple takes overturned defamation case to Supreme Court of Canada

The Senfts had been awarded more than $800,000 in damages before the decision was overturned

A former Dawson City couple who sued two women for defamation and was awarded more than $800,000 in damages only to have the decision overturned has taken their case to the country’s highest court.

Angela and Michael Senft filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on May 21.

The Senfts had sued Dawson residents Susan Hermann and Audrey Vigneau in 2017 following a dispute over the Senfts’ treatment of another woman, Daniele McRae.

McRae, who has since died, had added the Senfts to the property title of her Dome Road home in 2010 but abruptly kicked them out seven years later, claiming the couple had tricked her into giving them her house.

The Senfts sued for access to the house, with that lawsuit later settled outside of court.

However, before that lawsuit was settled, Vigneau created an online fundraising campaign to cover McRae’s legal fees, alleging in the description, among other things, that the situation was “blatant senior abuse and fraudulent.” Hermann placed letters in more than 800 mailboxes at the Dawson post office containing similar allegations, and both women made comments about the Senfts online or to the CBC.

A Yukon Supreme Court jury found in February 2019 that the women had defamed the Senfts and awarded the couple more than $800,000 in damages.

The Yukon Court of Appeal, however, overturned the decision and ordered a new trial for Vigneau and Hermann in April, finding that the judge presiding over the original trial hadn’t given the jury proper instructions, particularly on malice.

The jury found that Vigneau and Hermann had acted maliciously, and awarded special damages because of that.

In their application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Senfts argued that there were several issues of national importance to their case, including whether general and special verdicts should be held to different standards when being appealed, whether certain pieces of evidence should or shouldn’t be reviewed by appeal judges and whether an unsuccessful party should be allowed to raise an issue on appeal that it didn’t raise during the original trial.

The application noted that the trial judge had provided a draft copy of the instructions he would give to the jury to all the lawyers beforehand, with no one objecting to its contents.

“The Yukon Court of Appeal did not address the several failures of the defence counsel to object,” the document reads. “It is submitted that for over a century common law appellate courts in Canada and elsewhere have viewed the failure to object on issues raised on appeal for the first time to be a determining fact militating against the ordering of a new trial.”

The Senfts are also seeking clarification on how findings of malice should be handled by appeal courts.

The Supreme Court of Canada has not yet ruled on whether it will hear the case.

Contact Jackie Hong at

Supreme CourtYukon courts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Higher camping fees, new campground, reconciliation efforts feature in Yukon parks 10-year strategy

Creating a new campground within two hours of Whitehorse, introducing higher camping… Continue reading

YG and pharmacies preparing for flu vaccine distribution

The Yukon government is preparing for flu season and encouraging people to… Continue reading

Non-resident tests positive for COVID-19

The individual has been hospitalized in Whitehorse

Yukon working with B.C. on COVID-19 “mouth rinse” tests for children

The tests are easier for children than the comparatively uncomfortable nose swab

Throne speech promises COVID-19 support, childcare, internet upgrades

Yukon premier said he is “cautiously optimistic” about many commitments

Hot Hounds bikejor race serves as lone summer competition

Held in Mount Lorne, the race was organized by the Dog Powered Sports Association of the Yukon

Whitehorse operations building officially open

Staff are taking phased approach to moving in

North of Ordinary Experience Centre shutting down

COVID-19 has caused bookings for the space to become almost non-existent, owner says

Canada Games Centre could get new playground

Council to vote on contract award

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Harescramble brings out motorcycle community

This year’s event included 67 riders

YG seeks members for youth climate change panel

“Yukon youth deserve to have their voices heard”

Yukon NDP hold AGM

This year’s meeting was held virtually

Most Read