These are the current legal documents prepared for Honey Badger Brigade’s lawsuit against the Alberta Comic & Entertainment Expo Inc. Attached is also an invoice for consultation regarding our lawsuit and creation of these initial documents. We will pursue redress in Civil Court based on violations of the Fair Trading act and also argue that the Expo engaged in Injurious Falsehood against our business dealings. We will be serving the Alberta Comic & Entertainment Expo these documents when our review is complete, giving them additional time to respond before petitioning the court.
If you find any typos, errors, oversights in the following document or have questions, please leave a comment in the comment section below. Any and all input is valuable and will be considered carefully.
- The Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $50,000 jointly and severally against the Defendants Alberta Comics and Entertainment Expo Inc. and 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.
- The Plaintiff seeks against the Defendant Alberta Expo International Inc.:
- 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 Alberta Expo, 2015; and,
- An order from this Court enjoining this Defendant from denying the Plaintiff the right to participate in all future expositions held under its aegis and restraining it from falsely maligning the Plaintiff and circulating false statements about the Plaintiff in its communications to the public and third parties;
- 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 in 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.
- Alison Tieman is founder of the HBB. Karen Straughan and Hannah Wallen are spokespersons for HBB and are founding hosts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 mainstream media’s perception that creates a distorted narrative about men and women and 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.
- The Plaintiff concedes that the views which she promotes are views that are often contrary to the representations made by dominant media sources in the gaming culture establishment.
- The Defendant, The Mary Sue, 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 maintains its internet website at themarysue.com and maintains its head office at 1261 Broadway, Suite 508, New York, New York, 10001 U.S.A.
- The Defendant Alberta Comics and Entertainment Expo Inc. (hereafter referred to as “Alberta 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 which takes place 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.
- Some time prior to the event, the Plaintiff became aware that the Defendant Alberta Expo would hold its annual exhibition emphasizing comics, science fiction, horror, fantasy and pop culture between 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 Xenosphora website. The Plaintiff’s booth was identified by Alberta Expo as BF3821. The acceptance of the Plaintiff’s application constituted a binding contract in law.
- The Plaintiff and other HBB adherents 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. She 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. Alision Tieman through HBB was able to raise over $9,000 from its dedicated fan base to set up its promotional booth.
- On 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 panelists, Alison Tieman politely asked to speak from the audience and was given permission to do so.
- 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 panelists 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”.
- Throughout the Panel program, Alison Tieman was not violent, threatening or disrespectful. Alison Tieman did nothing that could be interpreted as harassing or disruptive behavior although there was a clear disagreement with some of the views of some of the panel members. Tieman did not engage in any violation of the stated policy of Alberta Expo and did not use abusive language. She did nothing that would in any way create a negative or unsafe environment.
- Following the Panel program, Alison Tieman returned to help manage the HBB booth. A number of people approached the booth who were already fans or were either interested in its art work and the comics and posters on display or simply curious. There was no conflict or confrontation or complaint during this time. No member of the Defendant Alberta Expo’s staff approached the persons attending to the management of the HBB booth to complain or warn the group about any inappropriate behavior.
- 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 Alberta Expo staff member, Shayne Henkleman, two security guards and another member of the Alberta Expo staff.
- Up to this point, Alberta Expo staff had made no complaint or expressed any concern to the Plaintiff regarding the HBB’s participation in the Alberta Expo. Although there was an apparent concern about complying with fire safety regulations as a result of the back of the exhibit booth extruding six inches and a request for information regarding fire safety compliance, Alison Tiemen complied with both requests immediately and to the apparent satisfaction of Alberta Expo management.
- Notwithstanding the above, and to their utter astonishment, Shayne Henkleman acting for the Defendant Alberta 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.
- 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 behavior 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.
- Further the Plaintiff was never made aware of or told that an investigation into her conduct had taken place as the Defendant Alberta Expo was required to do pursuant to its contract with the Plaintiff. At no time did the Defendant Alberta 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.
- 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 covering 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.
- 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.
- The conduct authorized by the Defendant Alberta Expo as described above contravened the oral representations as well as written policies and procedures outlined in Alberta Expo’s materials advanced to registrants and in particular, the policies of the Defendant Alberta Expo which specifically applied to its dealings with registrants. These specified that registrants were to be given advanced warnings and requests to cease behavior that was inconsistent with their contractual obligations prior to any further action being taken for any alleged breach.
- 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.
- 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 Alberta Expo security personnel had called them with concerns that HBB might “crash” the Alberta 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 Alberta Expo to interfere with the ability of the Plaintiff to interact with persons who had come, in one case travelling 36 hours, to attend the Expo in order to be able to interact with the Plaintiff.
- The Plaintiff did not violate any policy or rule that was contained in her contract with the Defendant. The management of Alberta Expo acted throughout willfully 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 paragraph below.
- Alberta Expo failed to investigate the allegations made by The Mary Sue or 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. Alberta Expo’s conduct and The Mary Sue’s articles constituted distorted misrepresentations of HBB’s views and actions during the aforesaid Panel discussion. Alberta 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. Alberta 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.
- 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” Alberta Expo to Actively Disrupt Panels, Alberta 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 Alberta 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:
- That Honey Badgers Radio (which was understood to refer to the Plaintiff) was affiliated with gamergate(Although in fact the HBB does express support for Gamergate’s stated aim of ethics in journalism);
- That the Plaintiff procured the booth for the Alberta Expo under false pretenses;
- That the conduct of the Plaintiff at the Panel discussion and at the Alberta Expo involved harassment and breached the rules of its contract with Alberta Expo;
- 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 the merchandise which was brought to the Alberta Expo booth 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.
- The allegations in The Mary Sue article were communicated to the co-Defendant Alberta Expo directly and, through the earlier version of the article, which induced Alberta Expo to breach its contract with the Plaintiff. Alberta Expo accepted the allegations as set forth above as unassailable. The Mary Sue article also resulted in Alberta 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.
- The Defendant, The Mary Sue, is affiliated with Alberta 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.
- On or about May 14, 2015, the Plaintiff, for the first time, was given an unsigned written explanation by the Defendant Alberta Expo for its expulsion and ban from the Alberta 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. Alberta 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 Alberta Expo rules and policies, Alberta 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 was not in any respect offensive or inappropriate or in breach of the aforesaid contract.
- With respect to the second reason given in the unsigned May 14, 2015 correspondence from the Defendant Alberta Expo; namely, that the behavior of HBB members at the panel discussion on the evening of April 16, 2015 breached the rules and policies of the Defendant Alberta 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, Alberta Expo.
- 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.
- To this date, the Defendant Alberta 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.
- The Defendant Alberta 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 Alberta Expo that HBB “does not fall in line with [our] mandate” which the Defendant Alberta 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, Alberta Expo also conducted itself in the manner described herein because of the Plaintiff’s falsely alleged associations with persons and/or groups in the gaming culture, such as gamergate, that the Defendant Alberta Expo considered unsavoury. Such motivation amounted to condemning the Plaintiff because of alleged guilt by association.
- The justification for the expulsion and ban by the Defendant Alberta 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. These reasons should be discounted entirely by this honourable Court as a ruse to discriminate and censor the Plaintiff and her views.
- The Defendant Alberta Expo’s rules and regulations are replete with boilerplate provisions reflecting unequal bargaining power between the parties and amounted to giving Alberta Expo unfettered discretion in breach of fundamental principles of contract law. Alberta 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.
- 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 Alberta 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.
- The Defendant Alberta 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 was inconsistency 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.
- 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.
- 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 which were grossly unfair. The Defendant Alberta 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.
- 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 the conditions of registration imposed on the Plaintiff as well as in its interpretation of those conditions and its subsequent conduct, the Defendant Alberta 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.
- To the extent that the Defendant Alberta 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.
- The Plaintiff relies on the doctrine of waiver and estoppel. Alberta 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 Alberta Expo convention and its ban from other expositions under its aegis in Edmonton and Saskatchewan and is therefore, estopped in law from such conduct.
- The Plaintiff further relies on the doctrine of detrimental reliance. The Defendant Alberta Expo made misrepresentations to the Plaintiff which the Plaintiff relied on to her detriment but which Alberta Expo intentionally failed to honour, thereby causing the Plaintiff pecuniary and other harm.
- The Defendants, by their conduct as described above, are both jointly and severally liable for the losses and injuries sustained by the Plaintiff.
- As a result of the conduct of both Defendants, the Plaintiff has incurred financial losses and general damages. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the damages caused to the Plaintiff includes distress, embarrassment, loss of opportunity to sell her goods and specific financial losses including the following:
Honey Badger Brigade
- Booth cost $ 650.00
- Electricity $ 250.00
- Parking $ 250.00
- Badges $ 740.00
- Lodgings $1000.00
- Travel $3855.90
- Podium $ 467.00
- Kiosk $ 824.63
- Bagging Supplies $ 159.12
- Shipping $ 69.81
- Misc Supplies $ 264.90
- Lost convention income($675/day) $2360.00
- Lost Patreon income $1800.00
- Lost pole $ 562.50
- Damaged stretch fabric funnel $ 586.11
- Backdrop cost $ 1503.50
- Stretch shapes $ 387.63
- LEDs $ 1217.63
- iPad Enclosure(till) $ 351.04
- Travel(Sage Gerard) $ 593.10
- Per Diem Alison(75$/day) $ 450.00
- Lost income convention sales* $14000.00
- Lost income sales $ 135.00
* 35 comic books per convention at 20$/book for 10 years, assuming no increase in popularity.
Alternative Rewards Cost
- Travel(Alt. Rewards) $3996.87
- Lodging(Alt. Rewards) $1350.00
- Food Costs $ 485.30
Costs specific to HB members and volunteers
- Mike Stephenson $3210.00
- Brian Martinez To Be Updated
- Anna Cherry To Be Updated
- Hannah Wallen To Be Updated
- Karen Strughan To Be Updated
- Sage Gerard To Be Updated
TOTAL SPECIFIC LOSSES(will be updated): 41520.04$
- Alberta 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 Alberta Expo hypocritically espouses. Accordingly, the Plaintiff will seek aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages and the Declarations that would inhibit the Defendant Alberta Expo and enjoin it from similar conduct.
- Calgary Expo Lawyer: “I was uninformed about my client’s name” - June 23, 2016
- Honey Badger Brigade Legal Documents - October 6, 2015
- Legal Draft Calgary Expo Expulsion Honey Badger Brigade July 14th, 2015 - July 14, 2015