A panel of three legal experts is recommending the provincial government adopt legislation against so-called strategic litigation against public participation, also known as SLAPPs.
The report, released yesterday, identifies several principles that should underlie the proposed legislation. They include the notion that the method to stop such lawsuits should be cheap and fast; put the onus on plaintiffs to prove the litigation wasn’t improper; balance the financial inequality between plaintiffs and defendants; and deter people from launching them in the first place.
The government asked University of Toronto Faculty of Law dean Mayo Moran and lawyers Brian MacLeod Rogers and Peter Downard to prepare the report in response to concerns over the growing use of litigation to silence critics who speak out on matters of public concern, notably in environmental disputes. The recommendations include a test to quickly recognize a SLAPP to define a “sphere of activity to be protected by a special procedure. The protected activity should include all communications on matters of public interest and not be limited to communications directed to a public body.”