Peter Nygard to drop defamation case against CBC, members of The Fifth Estate

Former clothing manufacturer Peter Nygard will be dropping a nearly decade-long lawsuit against CBC News, several producers of The Fifth Estate and journalist Bob McKeown.

In April 2012, Nygard’s lawyers filed a statement of claim against CBC, accusing it of airing a documentary from The Fifth Estate that made “untrue and defamatory statements and innuendo … directed at Nygard, his character and conduct,” says a court document obtained by CBC News.

But CBC News has learned Nygard’s lawyers will file a notice of discontinuance next Monday, dropping the case.

“The Plaintiff Peter John Nygard wholly discontinues this action without costs to any of the parties on a with prejudice basis,” says the notice of discontinuance dated Feb. 19, 2021.

The statement of claim filed in 2012 accused CBC of “intentionally and maliciously” broadcasting defamatory statements about Nygard in an April 2010 documentary by The Fifth Estate, called Larger than Life.

It focused on Nygard and his workplace conduct, including sexual harassment and mistreatment of employees. It also told of how teenaged girls attended parties hosted by Nygard, and how one young woman became visibly upset and scared, and was kept hidden, while staying at Nygard’s property in the Bahamas in July 2003.

The documentary was “made for improper purpose of causing embarrassment and humiliation to Nygard” and to shine a negative light on his business, the statement of claim said.

The statement of claim accused The Fifth Estate of implying Nygard lured the woman to his home under false pretenses, had acted inappropriately toward her and assaulted and sexually assaulted her, and committed a crime.

CBC News was also accused of broadcasting the documentary despite receiving a statement from the woman saying there was no wrongdoing, and multiple correspondences from Nygard’s lawyers saying the information either wasn’t true or the sources were unreliable, the court document said.

CBC lawyers filed a statement of defence on June 5, 2012. The people named in the statement of claim denied the allegations and stood by their work, it said.

The team corroborated information they received from multiple sources including court documents, and sent multiple interview requests to Nygard so he could address the allegations against him. He declined those requests, the statement of defence said.

“CBC fairly and responsibly reported on the information it researched and received in relation to the Nygard story and the words complained of,” the document said.

“CBC acted responsibly in attempting to verify the information as provided in the words complained of.”

The defendants also noted that the documentary contained “several topics and matters critical of Nygard” which the plaintiffs did not allege were false or defamatory, it added.

Nygard International Partnerships filed a notice of discontinuance from the lawsuit in November 2020, according to a court document.

The RCMP and Winnipeg Police Service arrested Nygard, 79, last December in relation to a nine-count indictment in the United States, accusing him of racketeering, sex trafficking and other related crimes. The alleged crimes took place over a 25-year period and Nygard is accused of using company resources to facilitate the alleged crimes.

Nygard was denied bail last month and is now in Headingley Correctional Centre in Manitoba, facing extradition to the U.S.

Nygard is also the focus of a class-action suit filed in New York last year. Fifty-seven women have signed on to the suit that accuses Nygard of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking in Canada, the U.S. and the Bahamas, dating back to 1977.

The class action was put on hold last summer after a judge in the Southern District of New York entered a stay of proceedings, so the FBI could complete its investigation into Nygard, court documents say.

Nygard has denied all allegations against him. None have yet been proven in court.