Ontario ponders anti-SLAPP law

Big business will launch Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) against community/advocacy groups which oppose their plans. The point is intimidation, and since public meetings/criticisms can involve colorful language stretching libel laws, sometimes they are effective in shutting down opposition. Quebec has anti-SLAPP legislation, now Ontario is considering it; every province should have it.

CBC, August 16 2010

SLAPP being examined in Ontario

SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are used by big companies to intimidate public protests against their proposals, usually involving environmental issues. It’s nice to stand up against a big company at a public meeting and shout “this company sucks”, but it’s possibly defamation. On the other hand, Joe Blow can’t stand against a big company’s $20 million law suit and backs down in the face of ruinous legal costs. The very fact that it has a name and acronym means that companies are quite prepared to use the threat to quell public dissent. Balancing the right of fair comment against the right of an organization to protect its good name is now an issue for the province of Ontario, which is setting up a panel to investigate it, and hopefully give some guidelines for community, advocates and business to have a full and fair debate on public issues.

Report on Business, July 7 2010

When is a SLAPP not a SLAPP?

Big debate in legal and activist circles about SLAPPs — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. These are essentially frivolous lawsuits launched by big business trying to squash local opposition to a project, for example, a mining firm launching a $5 million suit for defamation when they’ve been criticized for a project, even if the criticism is fair comment. However, facing the legal costs of fighting such a suit is daunting enough for some people to back down. Twenty two states and Quebec have legislation against SLAPP’s. This article looks at both sides of the issue, the other sides companies having to spend big bucks on frivolous charges from environmental groups determined to block a project at all costs.

Vancouver Sun, April 22 2010