Protecting Freedom of Expression
Ontario Reintroduces Legislation to Safeguard Public Participation in Debate
Ontario is taking steps to protect the freedom of people who speak out on matters of public interest.
If passed, the Protection of Public Participation Act would give Ontario courts a more effective process for identifying and dealing with strategic lawsuits. The proposed law would minimize the time and resources wasted by plaintiffs, defendants and the courts on meritless claims, while allowing legitimate complaints to proceed in a timely manner.
The ability to freely participate in public discussion about matters of public interest, without fear of retribution, is fundamental to a fair and democratic society.
The reintroduction of the Protection of Public Participation Act is part of Ontario's strategy to build Better Justice Together, a commitment to work together with partners to make the justice system simpler, faster and less expensive for all Ontarians.
- In a strategic lawsuit, commonly known as a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), a person or company uses the threat of a lengthy and expensive lawsuit as a way to intimidate an opponent, discouraging others from speaking out.
- The majority of strategic lawsuits are filed in court as claims of defamation (libel or slander), have little or no merit, and are often dropped before proceeding to trial.
- The proposed legislation includes a fast-track review process. A request to dismiss the case must be heard by the courts within 60 days.
- The proposed law is based on extensive stakeholder consultations and the consensus recommendations of an expert advisory panel to provide a faster, more efficient process to address strategic lawsuits and provide greater clarity for the parties involved.
“Using a strategic lawsuit to silence an opponent is not only an unfair way to win an argument, but an undemocratic restriction on freedom of expression. Our government is standing up for the values that Ontarians cherish most by helping our courts identify and address strategic lawsuits, while ensuring those with legitimate claims to defamation are heard.”
“Anti-SLAPP legislation will ensure Ontarians who engage in the democratic process are protected from meritless lawsuits intended to silence them from voicing their concerns on matters of public interest. The new legislation is consistent with the laws in other jurisdictions which have taken measures to prevent SLAPPs.”
“As an advocate for a fair and effective justice system, the Ontario Bar Association called for a powerful tool that would prevent lawsuits aimed at stifling public debate but would maintain access to justice for legitimate claims. Public confidence depends on the ability of our justice system to operate efficiently and to enhance democratic principles. Both of these goals are threatened by the bad-faith litigation that this new legislation is designed to curb. We commend the government for reintroducing the Protection for Public Participation Act and look for it to be passed swiftly into law.”