FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA: In an important victory for free speech rights, the Supreme Court of Canada today issued strong rulings supporting the broad scope of Ontario’s anti-SLAPP suit law. The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) intervened in these significant court cases to support freedom of expression and to discourage litigation by powerful private actors that curbs the free expression of citizens in important public interest debates.
SLAPP or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” is the name given to lawsuits brought to chill people from exercising their freedom of speech on matters of public concern. Like some other provinces, Ontario has a law to stop SLAPPs before they ever go to trial.
Peter Kolla, lawyer for the BCCLA, stated: “The Supreme Court’s decisions today are a powerful endorsement of the importance of protecting freedom of expression on matters of public interest. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Ontario anti-SLAPP legislation, which is substantively identical to BC’s anti-SLAPP legislation, will promote broad participation in public interest debates.”
Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BCCLA, stated: “Today’s decisions will help ensure that people can address matters of public concern in their community without fear of retaliation. These decisions send a powerful message to large corporations and wealthy individuals that they can’t bully citizens, activists and non-profit organizations into silence through abusive litigation. Currently, only three provinces have enacted anti-SLAPP laws –– Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. It is time for all Canadian jurisdictions to get on board.”
Today’s decisions are the first time Canada’s highest court reviewed provincial anti-SLAPP legislation. In 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a developer’s lawsuit against a residents’ group was meant to silence critics and cannot go forward. Another case, Bent v. Platnick, was also about SLAPPs. The Court used its decision in the 1704604 Ontario Ltd. case and applied it to that one. The decision in Bent v. Platnick is focused on the facts of that case. There, the Supreme Court ruled, in a divided decision, that a doctor’s defamation lawsuit against a lawyer was not meant to silence anyone, and could go forward. The Court heard the cases on the same day.
The BCCLA was represented in these appeals by Peter Kolla and Amanda Bertucci of Goodmans LLP and Maia Tsurumi, Barrister and Solicitor.
Read the BCCLA’s factum here.
Peter Kolla, Counsel for the BCCLA, [email protected], 416-597-6279Grace Pastine,
BCCLA Litigation Director, [email protected]