OTTAWA Dec 01, 2013
Today Ecojustice joined public-interest groups in applauding a proposed new law that would allow Ontario citizens to speak out without fear of reprisal in the form of lawsuits.
This afternoon, the Government of Ontario tabled new legislation – the Protection of Public Participation Act – to stop the threat of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). These unmeritorious lawsuits are used to intimidate or silence critics and prevent individuals from voicing community, environmental and public-interest concerns.
“The public’s right to speak out and participate in decision-making is a cornerstone of our democratic system,” said Pierre Sadik, Ecojustice’s Manager of Legislative Affairs. “This new legislation will go a long way towards discouraging deep-pocketed interests who try to suppress free speech in Ontario.”
The legislation is based on an earlier government bill, Bill 83, and comprehensively addresses the recommendations made by an expert panel, which was convened by the Attorney General in 2010.
SLAPPs have been launched against Ontarians who have spoken at a public meetings, work to inform the public about an issue, take a case to the Ontario Municipal Board, file complaints with government agencies, or report environmental violations. The legislation tabled today provides for a faster process for dismissing SLAPPs, strong disincentives for initiating them, and guidelines for judges on how to address them.
The Ontario Bar Association, former Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and former Supreme Court of Canada Justices Frank Iacobucci and Ian Binnie have called for anti-SLAPP legislation. Other groups who have called for anti-SLAPP legislation include the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, municipalities.