October 30, 2015 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) applauds the recent passage of legislation in the province of Ontario to reinforce the rights of citizens to speak out on matters of public interest. The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015, is designed to prevent a strategic lawsuit from being used by an individual or company to silence critics. The Act will allow the courts to implement a fast-track process to identify and dismiss strategic lawsuits quickly.
“It is clear Ontario legislators recognized Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) had an unwarranted chilling effect on free speech,” noted John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director & General Counsel. “This new act, as passed, should make it substantially easier for citizens to comment on public matters and to defend against strategic lawsuits,” said Lawford.
The fast-track review process will allow a defendant to ask for the dismissal of a case they believe it restricts their freedom of speech. In turn, the courts will base their assessment on the following questions:
- Is the lawsuit about a matter of public interest?
- Does the case of the plaintiff have substantial merit?
- Is the harm suffered, or likely to be suffered, by the plaintiff serious enough to justify stopping public expression?
Depending on the answers, the case may be dismissed, saving valuable court and public resources.
Additional information on the passage of the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015, can be accessed at the following Government of Ontario website:
The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015
For more information please contact:
Executive Director & General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)