Ontario's Bill 83 vital protect the public from meritless lawsuits

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Honourable John Gerretsen
Ministry of the Attorney General McMurtry-Scott Building
720 Bay Street, 11th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 2S9

Dear Attorney General,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE has joined with the organizations outlined below to write to you about the status of Bill 83, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2013, which you introduced in the Ontario Legislature on June 4, 2013. The Bill has been in second reading debates since September 25, 2013. We request that you take all the necessary steps to ensure the Bill passes second reading and is referred to Committee before the Legislature rises for the holiday break on December 13th.

Bill 83 reflects in very large part the recommendations of the Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel which was established three years ago to provide advice on the content of legislation to target strategic law suits against public participation (SLAPPs). The Panel, which was chaired by Dean Mayo Moran of the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto and made up of two leading legal experts on defamation law, concluded that there was a need for anti-SLAPP legislation in Ontario. In its report, the Panel stated that “it was persuaded that threats of lawsuits for speaking out on matters of public interest, combined with a number of actual lawsuits, deter significant numbers of people from participating in discussion on such matters.”

Bill 83 provides an effective response to the problem of SLAPPs in Ontario and would prevent the misuse of our courts from SLAPP suits without depriving anyone of appropriate remedies for expression that causes significant harm. We also note the Bill has received support from members of both opposition parties.

The enactment of anti-SLAPP legislation in Ontario has received wide endorsement from organizations and members of the public, including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, public interest organizations, academics, the Ontario Bar Association as well as former members of the judiciary.

We regard the adoption of Bill 83 as vital to Ontario’s democracy as it will protect the public from meritless lawsuits intended to deter them from engaging in discussion on matters of public interest. Accordingly, we strongly urge the Ontario government to ensure the expeditious enactment of this important Bill.

Yours truly,
Peter Jacobsen, Chair of the Canadian Issues Committee Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director & Counsel Canadian Environmental Law Association
Pierre Sadik, EcoJustice Manager of Legislative Affairs
Joanna Kerr, Executive Director Greenpeace Canada
Tim Gray, Executive Director Environmental Defence
Jack Gibbons, Chair Ontario Clean Air Alliance
Caroline Schultz, Executive Director Ontario Nature
Cara Faith Zwibel, Director, Fundamental Freedoms Programme Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Derek Coronado, Coordinator Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario
Mark Calzavara, Ontario Regional Organizer The Council of Canadians
Janet Sumner, Executive Director CPAWS Wildlands League
Dr. Faisal Moola, PhD Director General David Suzuki Foundation
Dan McDermott, Chapter Director Sierra Club Ontario

The Honourable John Milloy, Government House Leader
Julia Munro, PC Critic, Attorney General
Jagmeet Singh, NDP Critic, Attorney General