The Government of Ontario announced today that, “Ontario has passed the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015, which is aimed at stopping strategic lawsuits.”
The government media release notes, “A strategic lawsuit, commonly referred to as a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), is a tactic used by an individual or company to silence critics. Plaintiffs (the parties starting the lawsuit) use these lawsuits against weaker opponents in the hope that they will exhaust their finances and energy in defending themselves. …The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 helps protect the rights of Ontario residents to speak out on public issues without the fear of being faced with a strategic lawsuit by allowing the courts to use a fast-track process to identify and dismiss strategic lawsuits quickly.”
The Council of Canadians has been supporting the call for anti-SLAPP legislation for the past two years. In a joint media release in 2013, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “Lawsuits without merit that are meant to bully people from exercising their rights must be stopped. There is no place for that type of conduct in our society.”
In June 2013, our Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara wrote in support of anti-SLAPP legislation highlighting, “The Council of Canadians is gravely concerned by the lawsuit launched by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace Canada and its employees which seems to be a SLAPP suit aimed at preventing legitimate criticism of Resolute’s conduct in the forests of Quebec.” In March 2014, he noted, “At the urging of municipalities, legal and civil society groups across Ontario, the Liberal government finally introduced anti- SLAPP legislation last year. Bill 83, the Protection of Public Participation Act, is long overdue.” In that update, Calzavara also encouraged our supporters to tell their MPP to pass Bill 83.
Once the Protection of Public Participation Act receives Royal Assent, it will apply to lawsuits that began on or after December 1, 2014.
The Council of Canadians congratulates all groups who worked in support of this legislation. Today, Environmental Defence noted that, “Over 60 municipalities, PEN Canada, the Ontario Bar Association, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, Canadian Journalist for Free Expression, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and over 150 environmental organizations and many academics supported bringing in anti-SLAPP legislation.”
Groups applaud government’s anti-SLAPP bill (June 2013 media release)