I am very happy to speak tonight about strategic lawsuits against public participation – or SLAPPs. – because SLAPPs raise some of the most important issues of our time.
We fought for the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to protest. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a Constitution and we have signed international agreements that are supposed to guarantee our rights. But they clearly don’t.
Alan Dutton is a retired academic and human rights advocate who taught in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, First Nations and Corrections Canada University transfer programs. He has worked against racism as the National Director of the Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society and as a member of the Government of B.C. Advisory Council on multiculturalism. He is a recipient of the MOSAIC Annual Human Rights Award and the Attorney General of British Columbia’s Award for Excellence in Research and Education.
I sent a letter on behalf of over 200 people to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of BC asking that Bill M223 - Anti-SLAPP Act 2015 - proceed to second reading and Committee for discussion. We believe that Bill M223 is crucial for democracy in B.C. because it will empower courts to identify and prevent strategic lawsuits against public participation – or SLAPPs – and thereby stop the assault on democratic rights.
Defend freedom of expression and the right to protest.
Petition to stop SLAPP suits
A petition to stop SLAPP suits has been created by West Coast Environmental Law and we ask that you sign it to support this effort to reclaim democratic rights and protect those who speak out against Big Oil and other corporations and government agencies. Will you join us and Defend BC?
Everyone in Canada should have the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to freely voice their concerns and to organize public demonstrations. But they don't. SLAPP suits undermine and subvert democratic rights and the democratic process. In fact, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not protect protestors and critics and the courts impose a huge burden to achieve any sort of justice and redress. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of the Canadian Constitution and while it is supposed to protect citizens against government it is not generally applied to disputes between private parties. Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media or communications are guaranteed by Section 2(b) of the Charter and freedom of peaceful assembly by section 2(c). However, unlike the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies only to protection from government intervention - not private disputes for alleged defamation and protests. Read more
Will the Courts Protect Me?
The answer is almost certainly no. The courts are biased in allowing cases to proceed to trial. To have a lawsuit dismissed, a target of a SLAPP suit must prove on the balance of probabilities that a suit was filed for a malicious purpose such as to silence a person on a matter of public concern or to stop them from demonstrating. To prove malicious intent against a large corporation with almost unlimited resources is difficult at best. In short, it is very difficult and expensive to have a SLAPP suit dismissed in Canada even if there is no credible proof that a lawsuit is an abuse of process, malicious and without factual basis. This is unlike the United States where over half the States have specific anti-SLAPP legislation and First Amendment rights to free speech that provide rules for the better protection of the right to protest and speak out against government agencies and corporations. Read more
Thanks to all our supporters. In particular, thanks to West Coast Environmental Law for two grants to develop recommendations for effective anti-SLAPP suit legislation, Dr. Jane Shin, MLA Burnaby-Lougheed for continuing to push for anti-SLAPP legislation and to students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for continued support. Click here to read statements of support to reclaim democratic rights.
Recommendations for Anti-SLAPP Legislation with Appendices. Environmental Defense Working Group (2015).
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