VANCOUVER — Ecojustice has successfully defended a grassroots Langley conservation group against a $5.5 million defamation suit, confirming the public’s right to speak up when the environment is put in jeopardy.
In a decision handed down yesterday, all claims against the Glen Valley Watersheds Society were dismissed.
The ruling states that the Judge found no evidence to back the lawsuit, adding that the “claimant has greatly exaggerated the statements made by the respondents and has fabricated other allegations concerning their conduct and statements.”
“This case is a clear statement that meritless lawsuits against people who speak up for the environment will not stand,” said Jennifer Agnolin, Ecojustice staff lawyer.
Robin Scory of Langley, B.C., launched the suit after applying to deposit a very large amount of fill on his land.
Concerned the fill would erode into fish-bearing streams, the Society voiced its reservations to various levels of government. When the project was put on hold for further review, Mr. Scory sued the Society and two citizens for speaking out against the project, claiming they had, among other things, defamed him.
The decision however, notes that the concerns expressed by the Society about what could happen to the environment were not defamatory statements, but were “opinions on a matter of public interest.”
“Citizens are the best keepers of their local environment,” Agnolin said. “They have the right to freely to speak up about projects they think will harm their environment without fear of being sued. This decision protects that right.”
The Glen Valley Watersheds Society is a small non-profit society based in Langley. Its mandate is to protect and enhance the ecological integrity of local watersheds, and its members – mostly retirees – organize and participate in annual fry releases, watershed restoration and invasive plant removal projects.
The fight however, is not over. Mr. Scory has already filed to appeal the decision.