The Proposed Protection of Public Participation Act
In 2010, the Ministry of the Attorney General appointed an expert panel to explore the issue of strategic lawsuits and to recommend some solutions.
The Advisory Panel was chaired by Dean Mayo Moran of the Faculty of Law of the University of Toronto and included Brian MacLeod Rogers, a media lawyer, and Peter Downard, a partner with Fasken Martineau in Toronto. After extensive consultations, the panel concluded that strategic lawsuits potentially could be deterring significant numbers of people from speaking out on matters of public interest and recommended that legislation be introduced to address the issue. Read the panel's recommendations.
Based on these recommendations, the ministry is now proposing a made-in-Ontario solution that would balance the protection of public participation and freedom of expression with the protection of reputation and economic interests.
What is a strategic lawsuit?
A strategic lawsuit is a lawsuit that is used to limit expression on matters of public interest.
In most cases, one party claims that another has damaged his or her reputation, usually through a claim of defamation (libel or slander).
Under the proposed law, there would be a fast-track review process for lawsuits alleged to be strategic in nature, rather than legitimate defamation claims. This would include the "legal test" that a judge would use to quickly determine whether or not a case should be dismissed or if it should be allowed to proceed in court.
A request to dismiss would have to be heard by the court within 60 days. This would help minimize wasted time and resources for plaintiffs, defendants and the courts on questionable claims, while allowing legitimate complaints to proceed in a timely manner.