VANCOUVER, BC, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Territories – Environmental lawyers are optimistic about new legal protections for free expression in BC, after the reintroduction of a bill to protect British Columbians from strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).
BC Attorney General David Eby tabled the Protection for Public Participation Act yesterday afternoon, noting the strong support for this law among leading experts and the public. The legislation was initially introduced in May 2018, but failed to pass before the end of the last session.
“Anti-SLAPP legislation is a proven tool that protects people from costly lawsuits intended to stifle public debate,” said Erica Stahl, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. “We’re very happy to see that the bill has been reintroduced in BC – and this time we hope it makes it to the finish line.”
As in the previous iteration of the bill, the proposed legislation would give the court power to dismiss a lawsuit if it hinders the defendant’s ability to speak freely on a matter of public interest. The law would also allow the court to fully compensate defendants for costs, if the court determines that the lawsuit should be dismissed.
One disappointing change is that the new bill will only apply to SLAPP suits initiated after May 15th, 2018, whereas the previous version of the bill would have applied to any SLAPP suit before the court, regardless of when it was initiated. The new bill also continues to exclude injunctions from its purview.
“Our organization has worked with many groups and individuals who have faced meritless SLAPP suits, which place a heavy burden on defendants and put a chill on public participation,” said Stahl. “An anti-SLAPP law has the potential to safeguard British Columbians from the financial and emotional costs of SLAPP suits, and to protect our right and responsibility to participate in public discourse.”
For more information, please contact:
Erica Stahl | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association
604-684-7378 ext. 229, firstname.lastname@example.org