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Ecojustice at Supreme Court to defend Ontario’s anti-SLAPP laws

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In Governance
Nov 12th, 2019
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Peter Gagnon

Peter Gagnon, founder of a Soo-area residents’ group which has battled for years to protect an important coastal wetland area. The case is one of two heard by the Supreme Court of Canada today. –Northern Hoot photo

Email from Ecojustice

Ecojustice lawyers are at the Supreme Court of Canada today to protect Canadians from legal intimidation and retribution by powerful vested interests.

SLAPPs, or Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, are used to silence those who speak out. Without laws that defend against these lawsuits, members of civil society working to protect the environment can feel a real chill from legal intimidation.

Ecojustice lawyers will be advocating for a broad interpretation of Ontario’s anti-SLAPP laws. Environmental groups – including Ecojustice’s clients – must be able to assert their views on issues of importance to our environment without fear of being unduly dragged before the courts.

We want to ensure the province’s Protection of Public Participation Act will continue to protect individuals and groups from being SLAPPed. Few provinces in Canada have these kinds of laws, which makes it all the more important to ensure Ontario’s law. functions the way it was intended.

Over the years, Ecojustice has been a persistent advocate for strong anti-SLAPP laws:

Early in our existence, Ecojustice (then known as Sierra Legal Defence Fund) represented the Galiano Conservancy Association in one of the first Canadian cases to draw public attention to the problem of SLAPPs.

-We defended Friends of the Lubicon from a SLAPP suit brought by Japanese multinational Daishowa. The small advocacy group was helping the Lubicon Cree protect their traditional territory from resource development. Friends of the Lubicon initiated a boycott of Daishowa products, which resulted in the multinational suing the advocacy group.

-Between 2010 and 2015, Ecojustice worked with the Ontario legislature to bring about a legal response to SLAPPs, which resulted in the passage of the Protection of Public Participation Act – the act that is being considered by the Supreme Court.

-In recent years, Ecojustice played a key role in securing B.C.’s anti-SLAPP legislation, which is modelled after Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation.

-Our appearance today in Canada’s highest court to defend Ontario’s anti-SLAPP laws is a continuation of this important legacy.

AWARE News Network note:

Two cases involving anti-SLAPP legislation were heard today at the SCOC. One, Maia Bent, et al. v Howard Platnick et al, argues  that SLAPP suits silence survivors of gender-based violence.

B.C. coalition calls on Supreme Court to protect survivors of sexual violence from being sued

The other, 1704604 Ontario Limited v Pointes Protection Association, et al, centres on Sault developers Jeff Avery and Dr. Patricia Avery’s plans for a subdivision on a coastal wetland west of Sault Ste. Marie. The Pointes Protection Association residents’ group, citing environmental concerns, was successful in having city council overturn approval by the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority, and then battled on, winning at the OMB and at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Sault developers to claim for damages at Supreme Court hearing

Cases to watch 

Environmentalists Ask Canada Court for Anti-Bullying Protection

 

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