Bill 52, the Protection of Public Participation Act, was debated at Queen's Park again this week. Bill 52 is designed to prevent SLAPP suits (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), where deep-pocketed corporations bring frivolous lawsuits against grassroots critics (often citizen’s groups and environmental groups) in order to intimidate and silence them. MPP Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) began the debate, commenting:
“It’s my pleasure to continue debate on this important piece of legislation. What I discussed earlier was how important this bill was in terms of protecting public participation. It’s, again, a hallmark of our society that people need to be able to participate in discourse, particularly on matters that impact their communities, so it should go without saying that people should be encouraged, not discouraged, from participating in issues that affect where they live and how they live. This law will address that.” (http://ow.ly/KUkeW)
Although Bill 52 has wide support across all political parties, controversy has arisen over whether the Bill should protect all alleged SLAPP suit victims currently before the Courts.
If enacted as written, the anti-SLAPP “freeze” provision (reproduced below) applies only to potential SLAPP suits started on or after December 1, 2014. The previous version of this Bill, which died in the House when the June 2014 election was called, would have applied to ongoing litigation.
David Donnelly was asked for his take on this issue by Brian Platt of QP Briefing. While David`s preference is for Bill 52 to apply to ongoing lawsuits, the opposing view can be justified too:
“It’s not a black-and-white issue, because if you brought a lawsuit under one set of assumptions, I think you can make the claim that you should be able to see the action through under the law of the day, but any disappointment we feel over the retroactivity change is more than made up for in the euphoria that this bill is finally going to start protecting people.”
Read Platt’s March 26, 2015 article “Concerns of favouritism raised after retroactive provision scrubbed from nuisance-lawsuit bill” at http://www.qpbriefing.com/2015/03/25/concerns-of-favouritism-raised-after-retroactive-provision-scrubbed-from-nuisance-lawsuit-bill/. (Subscription service)
Want to learn more about anti-SLAPP legislation? Read Donnelly Law’s summary of Bill 52.