SLAPP – Protecting Public Participation

UPDATE November 3, 2015 – Ontario now has a law in place to address the problem of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 (anti-SLAPP law) came into effect today.

SLAPPs are legal proceedings with the primary purpose of silencing public discussion or input on matters of public interest. The purpose of a SLAPP suit is to intimidate and silence defendants, forcing them to spend an enormous amount of time and money to defend these meritless lawsuits.

Ontario’s new legislation will help to safeguard and enhance public participation in the democratic process, and should be good news for lake associations or individuals who seek to speak up and participate in public decisions affecting them and their lakes. 

For more information about Ontario’s anti-SLAPP law,  please see this analysis of Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, courtesy of our colleagues at Canadian Environmental Law Association:  Bill 52 – an analysis and background  

October 8, 2015 – After two weeks of consideration and public hearings, Bill 52 was referred back to the Ontario Legislature for third and final reading by the Standing Committee on Justice Policy.  Committee hearings on the Bill saw no changes made to the Bill.

September 15, 2015 – Bill 52, the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015, passed second reading today in the Ontario Legislature, and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy.

The Act will be reviewed at Committee over the coming weeks.

FOCA has been supportive of this important protection of public intervenors in the land use planning process.

Your role:

Support legislation to prevent frivolous lawsuits against public participation.

Read FOCA’s Fact Sheet on the topic, including a sample letter to adapt for your MPP. (PDF, 2 pages)

Bill 52, while intended to shield public input into public decision making from unreasonable legal action from opposing entities, is being subject to some criticism by industry and by northern Ontario municipalities. The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) who support the intent of the bill, is asking for amendments to this bill to protect the Northern forestry sector, for example, from unfair and untrue attacks, namely from special interests, that cause economic harm.

Their amendments would limit protections under the act to individuals and small community organizations with annual budgets of less than $100,000.

Background:

March 23, 2015 – “Watered-down” anti-SLAPP bill gets second reading 

Bill 52,  Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 (at Second Reading debate)

February 18, 2014 Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation, Bill 83, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014.

Ontario’s Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel Report (Released on-line June 2013) (pdf; 31 pages)

What is (and what isn’t) in Bill 52 (from CELA)

More background and issues related to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General

Michelle LewinSLAPP – Protecting Public Participation