B.C. Attorney General David Eby (Hansard TV)

B.C. moves to protect public debate from ‘strategic’ lawsuits

Deep-pocketed special interests can silence opponents, David Eby says

The B.C. government is moving to prevent ‘unfair’ lawsuits designed to intimidate or prevent people from taking part in public debates.

Attorney General David Eby presented the Protection of Public Participation Act in the B.C. legislature Tuesday, saying it won’t be debated until next fall to give the public time to study it. The legislation restores a provision that was briefly in effect in 2001, and is similar to recent Ontario legislation protecting freedom of speech, he said.

“Lawsuits that serve to silence and financially exhaust those exercising their right of expression exploit our legal system and serve those with significantly deeper pockets,” Eby said.

The new law would allow a defendant to apply through an “expedited process” to have a lawsuit dismissed on the basis that it interferes with free speech on a public issue. It would be up to the plaintiff to convince a judge that harm from the speech would outweigh the public interest in protecting it.

“Previously the person who was sued had to show that the person who was suing them had a bad intent, that their intent was to silence them,” Eby said. “It’s a very difficult thing to prove unless you have an email or a witness who says the person told them that that’s what their intention was.

“This bill shifts it so the person who’s being sued only needs to show that the effect of the litigation is that their expression on a matter of public interest is affected.”

The bill allows people to apply for dismissal in a case that is already ongoing, which is why its passage is being delayed until fall, Eby said.

The government doesn’t have statistics on the number of “SLAPP” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) cases there are, because many are threatened but not acted upon, he said.

Meghan McDermott, staff counsel for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the change is overdue.

“People have been sued for speaking at public meetings, for protesteing and even for circulating petitions,” McDermott said.

Just Posted

Coastal GasLink awards contract for camp near Burns Lake

Local residents to be consulted before location is picked

Houston prepares for projected growth

Transportation Master Plan anticipates traffic increase

Houston’s Pleasant Valley Plaza to host information session about bitcoin

Locals will have a chance to ask questions about the proposed farm

Northwest firefighters deployed to eastern Canada

They will help with fire suppression efforts in Ontario and Quebec

Work “well underway” for shared revenue in northwest B.C.

Resource Benefits Alliance developing proposal for the province

BC Games: Day 1 comes to an end

Medals have already been handed out following one day of competition in the 2018 BC Summer Games

Open water swimming from B.C. to Washington in 24 hours

The swim will take a full day, meaning Susan Simmons will be swimming in the black of night

Cigarette packs with graphic images, blunt warnings are effective: focus groups

Warnings considered effective flag ailments smoking can cause, like colorectal and stomach cancers

Canada’s title hopes quashed at Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco

On the men’s side, Canada was eliminated in the round of 16 as they were shut out by Argentina 28-0

‘We are doing the right thing:’ Protesters dig in at anti-pipeline camp

B.C. Supreme Court ruled in March that both the camp and a nearby watch house could remain in place

Astronaut drops in on Kraftwerk gig, plays duet from space

Alexander Gerst becomes an astronaut musician with live performance from International Space Station

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

UPDATED: Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

UPDATED: The Dog Creek wildfire has grown substantially over the past two… Continue reading

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

Most Read