“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 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.
Its purposes are:
(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) 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 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.
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.
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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