Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on November 12, 2019 (updated: November 27, 2019)

Protecting Canadians from legal intimidation and retribution from powerful vested interest

Devon PageLawyer
Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr

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.

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