Media Advisory: Rights group to appear at Supreme Court of Canada to argue for strong anti-SLAPP legislation

For immediate release

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear two appeals concerning freedom of expression on matters of public interest in lawsuits that aim to stifle this expression using s. 137.1 of Ontario’s Court Justice Act (CJA). The CJA is meant to discourage Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits) by allowing a suit against someone resulting from their public expression to be dismissed early in the litigation.

This case is significant for British Columba given that B.C.’s Protection of Public Participation Act is nearly identical act to the CJA. In the first case, 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association, a not-for-profit organization gave evidence before the Ontario Municipal Board opposing the development of a subdivision that would impact a wetland. The developer subsequently sued the organization for breaching a settlement agreement by giving this evidence. In the second case, Bent. v. Platnick, a lawyer who was the president-elect of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) wrote an email to OTLA’s listerv that was critical of a doctor involved in a case, and the doctor sued the lawyer shortly thereafter.

These appeals concern whether the not-for-profit and the lawyer can use the CJA to have the lawsuits against them dismissed without a full trial. The BCCLA is intervening in furtherance of its strident commitment to freedom of expression as it has long advocated for legislation aimed at curbing SLAPP suits. The BCCLA is concerned at the Ontario Court of Appeal has unduly narrowed the application of the CJA. The BCCLA will consequently argue in favour of an interpretation of the Act that encourages expression on matters of public interest, promotes broad participation in public interest debates, and discourages using litigation to stymie expression on these matters.

By focusing on ss. 137.1(4)(b) of the CJA, which requires that courts weigh the public interest in protecting public interest expression against the harm caused by that expression, the BCCLA will offer a framework for interpreting the CJA that considers factors including the motive, mode, and subject matter of the contested expression. To do so, the BCCLA will use the Court’s previous decisions on freedom of expression. This line of argumentation furthers the BCCLA’s consistent and continuing advocacy for the protection of freedom of expression as guaranteed by ss. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The BCCLA is represented in these appeals by Peter Kolla and Amanda Bertucci of Goodmans LLP and Maia Tsurumi.

The BCCLA’s factum in this case is available here.

The BCCLA’s summary of the case is available here.

What: Supreme Court of Canada to hear Appeals in 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association and Bent v. Platnick

When: November 12th, 2019, 9:30am EST

Where: Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa

Media Contacts:

  • Peter Kolla, Counsel for the BCCLA, available for comment at (416) 597-6279 or [email protected]
  • Maia Tsurumi, Counsel for the BCCLA, available for comment at (604) 376-1716 or [email protected]