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West Coast reacts: Protection of Public Participation Act a much-needed safeguard for democracy in BC

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – West Coast Environmental Law Association welcomes the BC government’s introduction of the Protection of Public Participation Act, a much-needed law that aims to protect British Columbians from costly SLAPP lawsuits (strategic lawsuits against public participation).

“West Coast and our allies have spent many years advocating for an anti-SLAPP law in BC, and we are delighted to see that this legislation has finally been introduced,” said Erica Stahl, Staff Lawyer. “In a healthy democracy, people should not be afraid to speak up about the issues they care about. By discouraging abusive lawsuits intended to stifle debate, this new bill will give British Columbians more freedom to voice their opinions on matters affecting their communities, the environment or human rights.”

The proposed legislation, tabled today, will establish an expedited process for defendants to ask the court to dismiss a lawsuit if it hinders the defendant’s ability to speak freely on a matter of public interest. The law would also allow the court to fully compensate defendants for costs, if the court determines that the lawsuit should be dismissed.

“Over the years, West Coast has worked with so many groups and individuals who have been hit with meritless SLAPP suits. If a corporation drags you to court for speaking out, you may spend years fighting the case – distracting you from the real public issues that need to be discussed and resulting in immense financial and emotional costs,” said Stahl. “This legislation will go a long way toward creating a robust and participatory democracy in BC.”

In March 2018, West Coast joined over 40 leading organizations and public interest advocates from a broad range of sectors to publish an open letter welcoming the BC government’s commitment to enact an anti-SLAPP law.

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For more information, please contact:

Erica Stahl | Staff Lawyer
604-684-7378 ext. 229, estahl@wcel.org