New Democrats move to block frivolous, anti-democratic lawsuits

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Judges GavelVICTORIA – New Democrats introduced legislation that would protect British Columbians from lawsuits intended purely to inhibit their right to free speech.

“British Columbians have a strong and wonderful tradition of expressing themselves regarding matters of public interest,” said Leonard Krog, New Democrat spokesperson for justice. “Sometimes this public expression is inconvenient and problematic for companies and governments too.  But it is not acceptable that a wealthy party pushing a particular agenda can try to shut down that expression or intimidate the public.”

Krog’s Anti-SLAPP Act would allow an individual or group targeted by a lawsuit to ask the court to quickly dismiss the action and award costs.

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are baseless lawsuits which target people and organizations simply to force them into wasting time and money to defend themselves. These attacks can also have a chilling effect, intimidating others from speaking out at all.

British Columbia was the first province to pass an anti-SLAPP law, but the B.C. Liberals rescinded it in 2001. Quebec has a similar law and Ontario is now considering one as well.

“Many people in my riding are speaking out about the Kinder Morgan pipeline,” said Jane Shin, New Democrat MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed. “While people have to accept the consequences of their decisions if they choose to break the law while taking part in a protest, they also have to have confidence that they will be protected from frivolous lawsuits being leveled against them.”

“People must be able to have their voices heard without the threat of expensive, intimidating legal action. The rights of free speech and peaceful assembly are absolutely fundamental to any democratic society,” said Krog.