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Fundamental Freedoms and SLAPPs

Strategic lawsuits and the Corporate Attack on Civil and Political Rights

Burnaby No Trans Mountain Pipeline March

SLAPPs - or Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation - are lawsuits brought by large corporations and government agencies against individuals, associations, unions, non-profits and community-based groups. The effect of a SLAPP suit is to silence and intimidate an opponent whether an individual or community group through fear of the costs of defending themselves against huge claims in court. SLAPP suits cause fear and intimidation through mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion so that individuals and community groups abandon criticism and opposition to a corporate project or government or corporate agenda. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization's ability to operate. SLAPP suits may also intimidate others from participating in public debate and protest from fear of being sued and so ordinary people may not speak out or participate in demonstrations for fear of themselves being sued in the future. This "chill factor" is a real and present danger and part of the collateral damage to all democratic processes caused by SLAPP suits. more

Legislative Recommendations

SLAPP suits are finally being recognized as a growing problem in Canada. In response, Quebec adopted anti-SLAPP legislation in 2009 and Ontario and British Columbia have both proposed legislation and are in various stages of consideration. However, we are along way from providing adequate protections against transnational corporations and government agencies suing Canadians for organizing, demonstrating and speaking out about matters of public concern. Canadians must get involved and understand that as much as Bill C-51 represents a serious threat to democratic rights, so do SLAPP suits. We must organize to protect democratic rights and lobby for legislation to stop SLAPP suits. See our legislative recommendations.

Fighting SLAPPs: Community Action

No to Trans Mountain Pipeline Vancouver

How do we protect the democratic right to freedom of expression and assembly from huge multinational corporations that have almost unlimited resources and influence? Surely, ordinary citizens don't stand a chance. This conclusion is wrong! We must overcome our cynicism and fear and begin to learn from those who have stopped multinationals in their tracks. In a recent book on SLAPP suits and community action, for example, Normand Landry maintains that to be successful against giant corporations we have to "...weaken the networks of support available to corporations that use SLAPP suits, break their economic alliances, counter their public relations campaigns and attack their public images" and Landry maintains "this has been done successfully in Quebec, Canada, Europe, Australia and the United States." (Landry, 2014) Read more about Community Action

Defend BC: Anti-SLAPP Petition

We need your help to defend the right to speak out. Corporations are increasingly using Canadian courts to intimidate and silence people from speaking out against pipelines through residential and conservation land, unsafe mining practices, fish farming, waste processing plants and building developments. The use of the courts to silence people is known as strategic litigation against public participation – or SLAPP. Sign the petition

Freedom and Democracy: Alan Dutton v. Kinder Morgan

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association provided this interview with Alan Dutton outlining the history of his involvement fighting Kinder Morgan's planned expansion and Kinder Morgan's $5.6 million lawsuit against him and four other organizers on Burnaby Mountain.

Alan lobbied for law reform in BC to stop SLAPPs and is now working to support the implementation of legally binding treaties on civil and political rights signed by the government of Canada. The link to the interview is: https://ccla.org/an-interview-with-alan-dutton/

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