Toronto – Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 (anti-SLAPP law) came into effect today. Ontario now has a law in place to address the growing problem of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).
SLAPPs are legal proceedings which are initiated with the primary purpose of silencing public discussion on matters of public significance. The purpose of a SLAPP suit is to intimidate and silence defendants by forcing them to spend an enormous amount of time and money to defend these meritless lawsuits rather than to seek justice in court.
The enactment of this new law in Ontario is consistent with other jurisdictions such as the United States and Australia which have enacted anti-SLAPP legislation. In the U.S at least twenty-seven states and one territory (Guam) have enacted anti-SLAPP legislation. A federal bill to address SLAPPs is currently before the U.S. Congress. Quebec has also addressed the problem of SLAPPs by strengthening the provisions of its Code of Civil Procedure to allow a Court at any time, and even on its own initiative, to declare an action or pleading to be abusive.
“The new law is essential to ensure that the public can engage in public debate without fear of strategic lawsuits to intimidate or silence them,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “We regard this legislation as critical to safeguard and enhance public participation in the democratic process.”
“The new law will have the added benefit of ensuring that our justice system is not backlogged with meritless lawsuits,” said Ramani Nadarajah, counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “The new law sets out an expeditious process to allow the courts to undertake an early review and dismissal of SLAPPs. It also provides effective remedies against those who initiate these types of lawsuits.”
For CELA’s analysis of Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, download here.
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