Alain Riel found not guilty
The lawsuit launched by Michael Clemann, owner of the British Hotel, against former councillor Alain Riel for his public statements regarding the restoration of the building on rue Principale was resolved April 3. Riel was found not guilty by Judge Dominique Goulet, and will not have to pay the $750,000 in damages requested in the suit.
The situation dates back to 2013 when Alain Riel publically called the demolition works on the western wall of the British Hotel “criminal”. At the time, major renovations where underway on this historic building. The required permits had been issued for the demolition and restoration of the west wall, but hadn’t been delivered to the owner when the works got underway.
Mr Riel retracted his statement on air during an interview on the show L’Outaouais maintenant, June 17, 2013, explaining that he hadn’t been aware the permits had been issued by the city. However, this retraction didn’t stop Mr Clemann from filing for libel against Mr Riel on June 18. During the January 23 to 25 hearing, Mr Clemann testified that, as a result of Mr Riel’s statements, he had to reassure investors and he suffered derision with respect to his commercial endeavours.
Judge Goulet ruled, April 3 of this year, that Mr Riel’s statements were a “figure of speech” and that there was no proof of malintent; rather, the ex-councillor’s apparent concern for the preservation of an historic building was at the root of his public statement. The judge added that Mr Clemann remains a respected businessman to this day; thus, his reputation was not tarnished.