The Public Participation Act
There have been several cases in Canada where small advocacy organizations and individuals have been sued for defamation in an effort to silence them. If they face their charges head on, they can incur substantial legal fees throughout the process, even if they are ultimately found not guilty. Those charges are an example of what is known as a SLAPP suit. SLAPP stands for strategic legal action against public participation and these charges are intended to intimidate detractors and critics into silence. In 2009, Quebec introduced amendments to its Code of Civil Procedure to protect public participation. On October 28 of this year Ontario passed the Protection of Public Participation Act to give its citizens the same protections. Currently, New Brunswickers, do not share in this protection. That is where this bill comes in.
The Purpose of the Public Participation Act:
The sole aim of this bill is to prevent SLAPP suits from keeping persons from participating in public discourse.
Highlights of the Bill:
The bill seeks to fulfill its purpose through the following measures
- Extension of parliamentary privilege of freedom of speech so that any person participating in a government process (i.e. committee witnesses, petition drafter, etc) has the same protection as MLAs concerning their freedom of speech
- Allows judges to dismiss suits filed for improper purposes (i.e. for the purpose of silencing one’s participation in public discourse)
- Allows judges to require those that filed the suit to pay for the expenses of the accused if the judge finds in favour of the accused
- Amends the defamation act to include a section on communications on Public Interest Matters to extend protections of a conversation even if that conversation is witnessed or broadcast to a larger audience
You can see the full text of the bill here: Public Pariticpation Act