These are the current legal documents submitted to the Alberta Provincial court for Honey Badger Brigade’s lawsuit against the Calgary Entertainment Expo Inc and Abrams Media, operating under the name the Mary Sue.
We are suing the Calgary Entertainment Expo for breech of contract and injurious falsehood and the Mary Sue for incitement of breech of contract and injurious falsehood.
This claim was served out of the Alberta Provincial Court September 9, 2015. They were mailed to the defendants September 18th. Attached is a scan of the claim.
1. The Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $50,000 jointly and severally against the Defendants Calgary Expo International Inc. carrying on business as Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo and Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo (hereafter referred to as “Calgary Expo”) and Abrams Media carrying on business as The Mary Sue (hereafter referred to as “The Mary Sue”) for injurious falsehood and also against the Defendant Alberta Comics and Entertainment Expo Inc. for breach of contract and against The Mary Sue for inducing breach of contract. These damages include special and general damages including for loss of opportunity, loss of future pecuniary and other benefits and aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages.
2. The Plaintiff seeks against the Defendant Calgary Expo International Inc.:
(a) A Declaration that the Defendant has treated the Plaintiff in a whimsical, arbitrary and discriminatory manner, has denied it freedom of expression and maliciously vilified and falsely maligned the Plaintiff’s views and conduct at the Calgary Expo, 2015; and,
(b) An order from this Court enjoining this Defendant from denying the Plaintiff the right to participate in all future expositions held under its aegis wherever they may take place and restraining it from falsely maligning the Plaintiff and circulating false statements about the Plaintiff in its communications to the public and third parties.
1. The Plaintiff, Alison Tieman, resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She operates as the Honey Badgers Brigade (hereafter referred to as “HBB”), an informal group of mostly women who write and take part in the gamer and geek culture and in particular, promote the view that women should not be portrayed as victims of such culture in weekly podcasts. The Plaintiff opposes the portrayal of men as abusers of women and as the primary promoters of unequal treatment and discrimination against women. Honey Badgers Brigade was started in or about August 2013 by Alison Tieman along with Karen Straughan and Hannah Wallen who were also involved in the formation of the group. Tieman sues in her personal capacity and as an identified leader of HBB.
2. Alison Tieman is the founder of the HBB. Karen Straughan and Hannah Wallen are spokespersons for HBB and are founding hosts of the HBB podcast, Honey Badger Radio.
3. The Plaintiff is a comic artist and creator of the Xenospora web comic, which she had been working on for seven years as of the date of the events, described in this Claim.
4. Due to the central and prominent role of Alison Tieman in HBB, the Plaintiff pleads that all injuries and wrongs done to or directed against HBB also affected her personally and accordingly, she is entitled to claim for all injuries and damages sustained by HBB as if they were caused directly to her.
5. The general purpose of HBB is to inform and communicate to the public its views regarding issues involving gender in culture, to deal with marginalized gender issues and promote discussion between different viewpoints as well as to promote ethical journalism.
6. The HBB challenges the portrayal of men as strong and stoic who do not have vulnerabilities and the portrayal of women as weak, passive and vulnerable. HBB opposes the establishment media’s narrative about men and women and maintains it erases from public purview institutional pressures and social treatment that harm both men and women. The Plaintiff opposes the perception that women are passive victims of men and are incapable of asserting themselves.
7. The Plaintiff concedes that the views she promotes are views that are often in opposition to those proffered by dominant media sources in gaming and nerd culture in general.
8. The Defendant, Abrams Media is a legal entity with its head office based in New York City, New York U.S.A. It carries on business inter alia as The Mary Sue, which is a daily Internet newsletter, which promotes itself as the premier destination for entertainment geeks. It provides coverage of movies, comics and television/movie fandom. The Mary Sue also hosted a Cosplay Contest at the 2015 Calgary Expo. The Mary Sue maintains its Internet website at www.themarysue.com and maintains its head office at 1261 Broadway, Suite 508, New York, New York, 10001 U.S.A.
9. The Defendant Calgary Expo International Inc. carrying on business as Calgary Comic Entertainment Expo and Saskatoon Comic and Entertainment Expo, is a corporation duly incorporated pursuant to the laws of the Dominion of Canada. It operates, inter alia, an annual comic and pop culture exposition, located in Calgary, Alberta. Starting in 2006, the convention has become the second largest convention of its kind in Canada. During its 2015 exposition, it attracted approximately 97,000 visitors, primarily from across Canada and the United States. They maintain their mailing address at 4000, 873 – 85th Street SW, PO Box 96094 West Springs, Calgary, AB, T3H 0L3.
10. In July 2014 the Plaintiff became aware that the Defendant Calgary Expo would hold its annual exhibition emphasizing comics, science fiction, horror, fantasy and pop culture from April 16 to 19, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta. The Plaintiff accordingly filed an application to register as an exhibitor at the Expo in order to set up a booth promoting its podcast as well as to sell related products and to benefit her career as an artist and comic book creator through her Xenospora website. The Plaintiff’s booth was identified by Calgary Expo as BF3821. The acceptance of the Plaintiff’s application constituted a binding contract in law.
11. The Plaintiff and other HBB members expended considerable time, money and effort to publicize their presence at the exposition to its members, supporters and others in various locations including in the United States and throughout Canada. Alison Tieman incurred expenses including paying the registration fee and purchasing material and other resources necessary to set up the booth in the Big Four Building at the exposition which was being held on the Calgary Stampede grounds over the three and a half day period. Alison Tieman through HBB was able to raise over $9,000 from HBB’s dedicated fan base to set up the promotional booth. As some fans also supported GamerGate it was decided to display the GamerGate logo on a flag at the booth in thanks for their contributions. GamerGate describes itself as a “consumer revolt for ethics in games journalism” and the GamerGate logo consists of a games controller with two “Gs” on it, one green, one purple.
12. On the first day of the exposition, Thursday April 17, 2015, Hannah Wallen overheard a member of Expo staff speaking with two other individuals. One of the individuals gestured in the general direction of the plaintiff’s booth and said: “We need to shut down some booths”. Hannah Wallen and Alison Tieman then approached the Calgary Expo customer service desk, directly across from their booth, and spoke with the Expo staff member. They inquired about the conversation and the staff member said it had not occurred but then said that nothing was wrong. Alison Tieman asked if there was a problem with the material displayed at the booth. Again the Expo staff member assured the plaintiff that there were no issues.
13. During the evening of the first day of the Exposition, Thursday April 17, 2015, the Plaintiff attended a panel discussion on the topic of “Women Into Comics” being held as part of the Expo program. At the panel discussion, in response to a statement made by one of the panellists, Alison Tieman politely asked to speak from the audience and was given permission to do so.
14. The Plaintiff spoke briefly. Her comments initiated a discussion involving other panel members. Other members of the audience also interjected with their own viewpoints. The result was a lively exchange involving diverse viewpoints. Alison Tieman raised issues about the way men as well as women were portrayed in comics which struck a note with all the panellists and which also resulted in an interplay of opinions regarding the lack of representation of people of colour in comics. As well, Alison Tieman advanced the view that the version of feminism articulated by some members of the panel was too quick to embrace victimhood for women, portraying them too often as mere “damsels in distress”.
15. During the presentation, no indication was given by any of the panellists or Expo staff in attendance that any rules were being broken or that the plaintiff was engaging in harassing behaviour. In addition, there was nothing said by Alison Tieman that could be interpreted as harassing or disruptive behaviour although there was a clear difference of opinion expressed with some of the views of the panel members. Alison Tieman did not engage in any violation of the policy of Calgary Expo, did not use abusive language, asked for permission to speak, was granted permission to speak and spoke. There was nothing said or done by her that would in any way create a negative or unsafe environment or show disrespect.
16. Following the Panel program, Alison Tieman spoke with another attendee at the panel and then returned to help manage the HBB booth for the remainder of the evening. During that first half day a number of people approached the booth who were already fans or were either interested in the artwork and the comics and posters on display or simply curious. There was no conflict or confrontation or complaint during this time. One of the Customer Service tables serving Calgary Expo was directly adjacent from the HBB booth so the booth was under observation by Expo staff at all times. No member of the Defendant Calgary Expo’s staff approached the persons attending to the management of the HBB booth to complain or warn the group about any inappropriate behaviour.
17. On the morning of Friday April 18, 2015, Alison Tieman along with Hannah Wallen and other supporters of HBB, Sage Gerard and Mike Stephenson, took the first shift in operating the booth. Shortly after arriving at the booth, they were approached by a Calgary Expo staff member, Shayne Henkleman, two security guards and another member of the Calgary Expo staff.
18. Up to this point, Calgary Expo staff had made no complaint or expressed any concern to the Plaintiff regarding the HBBs participation in the Calgary Expo. This was so even after Alison Tieman and Hannah Wallen had approached Expo Staff at the customer service desk to explicitly ask if there was any concern in regards to the HBB booth and displayed materials and the Expo Staff indicated there wasn’t. There was an apparent initial concern about complying with fire safety regulations in regards to a stretch fabric funnel erected in the HBB Booth and a concern about part of the HBB booth exhibit extruding six inches into the aisle. A request for information regarding fire safety compliance and a request to move the extruding portion of the exhibit back into the booth space were issued. Alison Tieman complied with both requests immediately and to the apparent satisfaction of Calgary Expo management.
19. Notwithstanding the above, and to their astonishment, Shayne Henkleman acting for the Defendant Calgary Expo, ordered Alison Tieman and the other persons involved in maintaining the booth to tear it down and remove it, as well as themselves, within ten minutes, from the premises. This demand could not be complied with without causing damage to the booth and its contents.
20. Henkleman gave no on-the-record reason for the ejection. However, on condition of privacy, and off the record, Shayne Henkleman stated that the reason for the expulsion was the participation of HBB in the panel discussion during the previous evening. While he described such conduct as harassing, Henkleman gave no particulars of any specific behaviour or any explanation why the participation of HBB in the discussion was considered harassment. He did, however, indicate that there were multiple complaints on social media about the Plaintiff without giving any details as to who made the complaints or whether any effort was made to determine if the complaints were substantiated.
21. Further, the Plaintiff was never made aware of or told that an investigation into her conduct had taken place, as the Defendant Calgary Expo was required to do pursuant to its contract with the Plaintiff. At no time did the Defendant Calgary Expo ask the HBB for its own account or description of any untoward event that occurred during the panel discussion. Instead, Henkleman repeatedly insisted that the Plaintiff summarily disassemble the booth that took three or four hours to set up so that it would not be visible by the time the doors were opened to the visitors at the Expo.
22. The expulsion took place notwithstanding the fact that the Plaintiff and members of the HBB were not given any notice of their eviction and therefore had not brought the required tools or protective coverings for the safe removal of art installation components in their booth. The persons who were specifically ejected from the participation with the HBB booth included the Plaintiff and her co-members Hannah Wallen, Karen Straughan, Anna Cherry, Rachel Edwards, Mike Stephenson and Brian Martinez.
23. At the time that they were evicted, the Plaintiff and other members of the HBB were told they would be banned for a period of ten years from participating as exhibitors at its future events.
24. The conduct authorized by the Defendant Calgary Expo as described above contravened the oral representations as well as written policies and procedures outlined in Calgary Expo’s materials advanced to registrants and in particular, the policies of the Defendant Calgary Expo which specifically applied to its dealings with registrants. These specified that registrants were to be given advanced warnings and requests to cease behaviour that was inconsistent with their contractual obligations prior to any further action being taken for any alleged breach.
25. On April 18 and April 19, 2015, the Plaintiff, in order to mitigate the damages sustained by her, arranged to establish its presence in a public park, Reader Rock Garden, near the convention grounds, thereby providing an opportunity to many of its fans who had arrived to attend the Expo to meet Alison Tieman and the HBB.
26. Although the Plaintiff and others convened there peacefully on the afternoon of both days, on April 19, 2015, security staff at the Expo Convention gathered directly across the street from the HBB gathering and called the Calgary municipal police to attend at the park. The police informed the Plaintiff that Calgary Expo security personnel had called them with concerns that HBB might “crash” the Calgary Expo in protest or otherwise cause trouble. The presence of the police and security guards was intimidating, unnecessary and baseless. It exhibited a clear malicious attempt by the Defendant Calgary Expo to interfere with the ability of the Plaintiff to interact with persons who had come, in one case traveling 36 hours, to attend the Expo in order to be able to interact with the Plaintiff.
27. The Plaintiff did not violate any policy or rule that was contained in her contract with the Defendant. The management of Calgary Expo acted throughout wilfully and maliciously in response to unsubstantiated allegations of alleged harassment made on social media, especially as a result of the conduct of the co-Defendant, The Mary Sue, as set forth in the paragraphs below.
28. Calgary Expo failed to investigate the allegations made by The Mary Sue or by others as a result of its allegations, which it knew or ought to have known, were false. It gave absolute credence to these patently hostile hearsay statements, most of which were prejudicial in nature. Calgary Expo’s conduct and The Mary Sue’s articles constituted distorted misrepresentations of HBB’s views and actions during the aforesaid Panel discussion. Calgary Expo intentionally repeated these false allegations made against the Plaintiff to the public and media, which falsely characterized the Plaintiff’s booth displays and views. Calgary Expo’s acts constituted efforts at censorship based on disagreement with the Plaintiff’s booth displays and transmission of its views and opinions and amounted to efforts at thought control and censorship.
29. The Defendant, The Mary Sue published the offending article on or about April 17, 2015 on its website internet magazine written by Jill Pantozzi entitled “[UPDATED] Members of GamerGate Planned to “infiltrate” Calgary Expo to Actively Disrupt Panels, Calgary Expo has Evicted Them” as well as an earlier version that was not updated. The article disparaged the Plaintiff and the participation of the HBB in the Calgary Expo. A number of allegations were made in that article which was broadly circulated on the Internet and read by numerous third parties. It knowingly, intentionally and maliciously made the following false allegations regarding the Plaintiff:
(a) Distorting the Plaintiff’s positions in regards to its support of men’s issues and GamerGate;
(b) That the Plaintiff procured the booth for the Calgary Expo under false pretences;
(c) That the conduct of the Plaintiff at the Panel discussion and at the Calgary Expo involved harassment and breached the rules of its contract with Calgary Expo;
30. As a result of the publication of the aforesaid allegations by The Mary Sue, which were reprinted and re-tweeted to other third parties and which were directly communicated to the co-Defendant for the purpose of inducing it to breach its contract with the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff sustained pecuniary harm in selling merchandise brought to the Expo and its efforts to promote HBB and its products and commercial prospects. The false and disparaging comments published by The Mary Sue also dissuaded persons from engaging in and refusing to have any contact or purchasing merchandise from the Plaintiff.
31. The allegations in The Mary Sue article were communicated to the co-Defendant Calgary Expo directly and, through an earlier version of the offending article, which induced Calgary Expo to breach its contract with the Plaintiff. Calgary Expo accepted the allegations as set forth above as unassailable. The Mary Sue article also resulted in Calgary Expo noting various commentaries that flowed from the publication of The Mary Sue article in social media. These contained further disparaging and negative comments regarding the Plaintiff based upon the false belief that the distorted contents of The Mary Sue article were accurate.
32. The Defendant, The Mary Sue, is affiliated with Calgary Expo which also posted a tweet linking it to the aforesaid article and purported to rely on the contents of the article as justification for expelling the Plaintiff from the Expo.
33. On or about May 14, 2015, the Plaintiff, for the first time, was given an unsigned written explanation by the Defendant Calgary Expo for its expulsion and ban from the Calgary Expo and its subsequent decision preventing the Plaintiff from being able to participate as exhibitors in the Edmonton Expo and Saskatoon Expo also operated by the Defendant. Calgary Expo gave two reasons for decisions. Although one of those reasons stated that the material on display at the HBB booth was in breach of unspecified Calgary Expo rules and policies, Calgary Expo did not specify in what respect the displays at the booth constituted such a breach. In fact, the displays were totally inoffensive, consistent with the themes of the exposition and its mandate and were not in any respect offensive or inappropriate or in breach of the aforesaid contract.
34. With respect to the second reason given in the unsigned May 14, 2015 correspondence from the Defendant Calgary Expo; namely, that the behaviour of HBB members at the panel discussion on the evening of April 16, 2015 breached the rules and policies of the Defendant Calgary Expo, the Plaintiff pleads that it had the right to expect and be able to exercise its right to freedom of expression during the panel discussion that took place. The Plaintiff intends to rely on a verbatim tape recording of the panel discussion that at least two of its members attended at the trial of this action in order to establish that its participation from the floor in the panel’s deliberations did not violate its contract with the Defendant, Calgary Expo.
35. The Plaintiff’s involvement in gender issues, pop culture and the geek/nerd culture made it logical and legitimate that it would attend the aforesaid panel discussion and seek to participate in it.
36. To this date, the Defendant Calgary Expo has still failed to identify any specific item on display at the Plaintiff’s booth that breached the Defendant’s policies nor any specific statement made by members of HBB that was in breach of its policies.
37. The Defendant Calgary Expo banned HBB and shut down its booth solely because it disagreed with the Plaintiff’s falsely portrayed views. The Plaintiff will rely at trial on a statement made by the Defendant Calgary Expo that HBB “does not fall in line with [our] mandate” which the Defendant Calgary Expo made public and which the Plaintiff contests. In addition to being motivated by animus against the Plaintiff and the HBB because of its views, its booth displays and its products, Calgary Expo also conducted itself in the manner described herein because of the Plaintiff’s association with persons and/or groups, such as GamerGate, that the Defendant Calgary Expo considered unsavoury. Such motivation amounted to condemning the Plaintiff because of guilt by association.
38. The justification for the expulsion and ban by the Defendant Calgary Expo in its communications to the Plaintiff, Alison Tieman and others, banning the Plaintiff and any associated organizations or persons including other potential exhibitors was unreasonable, without foundation in fact or law and in breach of its contract.
39. The Defendant Calgary Expo’s rules and regulations are replete with boilerplate provisions reflecting unequal bargaining power between the parties and amounted to giving Calgary Expo unfettered discretion in breach of fundamental principles of contract law. Calgary Expo’s reliance on generalized terms was oppressive and abusive. It did not provide meaningful notice of prohibited conduct and should not be treated as legally enforceable terms of the contract.
40. The Plaintiff further alleges that the unilateral terms and conditions imposed upon registrants were not subject to amendment or good faith negotiation. The arbitrary interpretation made by the Defendant Calgary Expo of these terms and their harsh enforcement reflected its dominant monopolistic position which left the Plaintiff vulnerable and subject to arbitrary and whimsical abuse.
41. The Defendant Calgary Expo also made representations to the Plaintiff that were clearly not the case and breached those representations with respect to both procedural and substantive matters. There were conflicts with respect to the manner in which the Defendant conducted itself and the obligations that arose from the agreement that it had with the Plaintiff. Such conduct constitutes the imposition of unfair trading practices and is therefore in breach of the Fair Trading Act, R.S.A. 2002.
42. The Plaintiff relies on section 4 of the Fair Trading Act, R.S.A. 2000 Ch. F-2 which requires that the contract between the Plaintiff and Defendant be interpreted against the Defendant’s interest. The Fair Trading Act is also relied on as conclusive evidence of community standards with respect to what constitutes fair conduct in a commercial transaction.
43. The Plaintiff further relies on Part II of the aforesaid Fair Trading Act and states that the Defendant engaged in an unfair practice in its dealings with the Plaintiff by imposing non-negotiable terms in the agreement with the Plaintiff that were grossly unfair. The Defendant Calgary Expo relied on these terms to breach the terms and policies applicable to the transaction which required the Plaintiff to submit to ambiguous and unspecified conditions and policies and which imposed one-sided obligations on the Plaintiff. These terms did not allow the Plaintiff to question such treatment or defend herself.
44. The terms of the imposed conditions and policies in the agreement should not be enforced against the Plaintiff as they were harsh and unconscionable, overly broad and without any limit as to their meaning and effect. Both by the conditions of registration imposed on the Plaintiff as well as in its interpretation of those conditions and its subsequent conduct, the Defendant Calgary Expo breached its duty of fair dealing in its performance and enforcement of the contract, interpreted the agreement solely and exclusively with its own perceived and unrestricted interests and views in mind and treated the Plaintiff punitively and disproportionately to any alleged breach.
45. To the extent that the Defendant Calgary Expo relies on its agreement with the Plaintiff as justification for its conduct, it is submitted that this Honourable Court should give no force or effect to such reliance as it has also resulted in arbitrary censorship, discrimination and denial of freedom of expression.
46. The Plaintiff relies on the doctrine of waiver and estoppel. Calgary Expo by its conduct and its initial communications with the Plaintiff waived any alleged concerns that it later used to justify the expulsion of the Plaintiff from the Calgary Expo convention and its ban from other expositions under its aegis in Edmonton and Saskatchewan and is therefore, estopped in law from such conduct.
47. The Plaintiff further relies on the doctrine of detrimental reliance. The Defendant Calgary Expo made misrepresentations to the Plaintiff which the Plaintiff relied on to her detriment but which Calgary Expo intentionally failed to honour, thereby causing the Plaintiff pecuniary and other harm.
48. The Defendants, by their conduct as described above, are both jointly and severally liable for the losses and injuries sustained by the Plaintiff.
49. As a result of the conduct of both Defendants, the Plaintiff has incurred financial losses and general damages.
50. Calgary Expo’s conduct as described above has been heinous, arbitrary, wanton, harsh and abusive. It is manifestly inconsistent with a culture of tolerance and principles of freedom of expression which the Defendant Calgary Expo hypocritically espouses. Accordingly, the Plaintiff will seek aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages and Declarations that would inhibit the Defendant Calgary Expo and enjoin it from similar conduct.
Mr. Kopyto's legal career includes cases that affect women’s rights, prisoners’ rights, the rights of the aged and the handicapped and unions’ rights. He has established legal precedents for gays, minorities, disabled persons, tenants, youth, the elderly, working people, poor people and victims of police brutality.
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