On Monday, October 15, Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi tabled the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2012 at the Ontario Legislature. The Bill, if passed, will provide protection to citizens and community groups advocating on matters of public interest, and offer relief from meritless lawsuits that aim to keep them quiet or deter others from speaking out.
Following through on a commitment made to our community of Ottawa Centre, MPP Naqvi is proposing substantive legal measures to address the serious issue of SLAPPs by creating a specialized test for courts to quickly recognize and dismiss a SLAPP, and order appropriate remedies for costs. These issues were examined thoroughly by an ‘Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel’ who submitted a comprehensive set of recommendations to the Attorney General of Ontario in October 2010, and can be found at: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/anti_slapp. Building on these thoughtful proposals, MPP Naqvi’s Protection of Public Participation Act, 2012 will enact each of the recommendations in to a comprehensive legislative framework.
SLAPPs are a serious threat to public participation, open debate, and community advocacy or action on such things as speaking at public meetings, participating in tribunal hearings, engaging in public campaigns, contacting the media, reporting environmental violations or lodging complaints with government. MPP Naqvi welcomes the opportunity to advocate serious measures to protect the principles of public participation and open debate, but more importantly to protect innocent public-interest oriented individuals and citizen groups who are targeted by frivolous lawsuits simply for standing up for something important to their community.
"SLAPPs have been happening in all corners of Ontario and beyond, and it is not right for people to be silenced and intimidated by the heavy hand and high costs of an unjust lawsuit. I am a big believer in community advocacy and public participation, and I will work hard to get this legislation passed to ensure the protections Ontarians deserve when speaking out on issues that concern them in their community."
- Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ottawa Centre
"The Hintonburg Community Association wholeheartedly favours initiatives that reduce the risk of SLAPP suits. Free speech has its limits, but those limits shouldn't be determined by those with deep enough pockets to afford years of grinding litigation to protect their interests. Anti-SLAPP legislation is critical to ensuring fairness for everyone involved in legitimate debate, especially grassroots, volunteer organizations like ours."
- Jeff Leiper, Hintonburg Community Association
"Volunteers in community groups face enough financial challenges when defending community interests without the threat of being sued by a deep-pocketed business. Just paying a lawyer to defend yourself can represent a significant personal expense which would be a major deterrent to getting involved. The Federation of Urban Neighborhoods (Ontario) has long advocated for Anti-SLAPP measures, and supports this legislation in principle."
- Don Stewart, Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods (Ontario)
Bill 132, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2012