Ontario bans SLAPP suits to protect free speech


 “Libel” is defined as defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures which are considered “Slander”.


Too often, lawsuits are initiated to silence the opponents from expressing their views in public under the guise of “libel” or “slander”. These are known as Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation or “SLAPP” lawsuits. They are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Typically, SLAPP lawsuits are preceded by letter(s) from Lawyers threatening legal action.


The plaintiffs of these SLAPP lawsuits do not expect to win. They want the defendants to succumb to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandon the criticism. SLAPP is often used by developers or corporations against individuals who publicly object to their projects.


The Markham Council monitoring group MCCRG (Markham Citizens Coalition for Responsive Government) was the recipient of threats for a SLAPP. In December 2013, the group was leading the charge against the City’s campaign to borrow $325 million to build a 20,000 seat arena without any National Hockey League tenant in support of a private venture. At the start of a special Council meeting where deputations from the group was anticipated, the arena promoter sent a letter to the organization threatening a lawsuit if its directors would quote any Newspaper items pertaining to information about the promoter and his practices.


MCCRG exposed this threat during their deputations. This, along with other strong supporting statistics from citizens’ survey responses, convinced the Markham City Council to rescind the financial framework and effectively killed the Arena project.

Bill 83法案是对安省《法院法》、《书面诽谤及口头诽谤法》以及《法定权力程序法》的的修订,旨在保护民众在公众利益事宜上的自由发言权。从本质上讲,该法案亦致力于阻止旨在限制民众在公众利益事宜上的言论自由权的诉讼。

Bill 83 is an Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, the Libel and Slander Act and the Statutory Powers Procedure Act in order to protect expression on matters of public interest. In essence, it will advocate the prevention of proceedings that limit Freedom of Expression on matters of public interest.

Bill 83法案的主要目的是:
Its purposes are:

(a) 鼓励个人对公共利益事宜发表意见;
(a)  to encourage individuals to express themselves on matters of public interest;

(b)  to promote broad participation in debates on matters of public interest;

(c) 阻止某些人利用诉讼方式不当限制民众在公众利益事宜上的发言权;
(c)  to discourage the use of litigation as a means of unduly limiting expression on   matters of public interest; and

(d) 降低 大众在参与公众利益事宜争论中因法律诉讼而受阻止的风险。
(d)  to reduce the risk that participation by the public in debates on matters of public interest will be hampered by fear of legal action.

Bill 83法案是2010年成立的反SLAPP顾问小组的努力成果,正是因为该小组向安省司法厅长提出法案草案建议,才促成了该法案的诞生。虽然安省政府在2013年就提出该法案,但却因为2014年提前省选而导致其胎死腹中。

Bill 83 was the fruit of an Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel created in 2010 to make recommendations to the Attorney General on the drafting of the bill. It was introduced in 2013 but was killed by the calling of the Provincial election in 2014.

但是,安省北部的一些城镇却极力反对Bill 83法案,他们认为该法案将会导致矿业和造纸公司丧失保护自身的能力,并无法阻止环保组织对他们所提议的设施建设提出诬告,从而会使当地出现职位流失。

A group of Cities and towns in Northern Ontario opposed to this legislation. They felt that the Bill will kill jobs in those regions by taking away the ability for Mining and Paper Mill Companies to defend and discourage environmental groups from making false accusations about their proposed facilities.

在2015年10月,安省政府终于通过Bill 83法案,使那些想要发声维护公共利益的人士从此将会远离“欺凌”。但是该法案仍存改进空间,因为其并未解决安省诽谤法的根本缺陷。目前被告仍将被迫单方面承担举证责任,并且只能以法庭承认的“事实”、“特权”、“公正评论”和“负责任报道”四种抗辩理由,在非常有限的法律框架内对虚假、恶意中伤和损害名誉指控进行反证。

In October 2015, the province of Ontario passed Bill 83. It should bring an end to the “bullying” of those who wish to speak out in support of public interests. This Bill can be improved upon as yet. Bill 83 does not correct fundamental flaws with Ontario's defamation law which impose a one-sided burden of proof to force defendants to disprove falsity, malice, and damage within a very limited framework, with “truth”, “privilege”, “fair comment”, and “responsible reporting” being their only recognised defences.

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