What if our community and environmental groups and organizations, and citizens were silenced? What if citizens and NGO’s in Ontario could not fully participate in public debate on issues, or comment on projects affecting our society, our environment? What if the fear of being sued (libel chill) took away our democratic rights?

That is what SLAPP lawsuits do. A SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit is intended to intimidate opponents, reduce their ability to participate in public affairs, deter others from participating in discussions on matters of public interest, and deplete their resources.

Recently, Nelson Aggregate’s new quarry application was denied because of the Jefferson Salamander and its habitats in the Grindstone Creek Headwaters Wetland Complex. The outcome may have been different, had PERL been prevented from speaking out about the quarry application.

Unfortunately, in Ontario, SLAPP suits are still happening. Three members of the Burlington community are being sued for their efforts and comments to oppose the landfilling and grading works at the Burlington Airpark. This $100,000 lawsuit appears to be a SLAPP suit, aimed at silencing opposition.

The Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition (RBGC), of which PERL is a member, continues its advocacy on the airpark; is actively fundraising to defend this lawsuit; and is calling on the Ontario government to pass anti-SLAPP legislation.

We believe that in Ontario citizens should have the right to speak out about projects that impact their communities. We know many of you feel the same way. Here’s how you can help:

First, on September 7, 2014 attend RBGC’s SLAPPstick Comedy event, a fundraiser to help pay the significant legal defence costs and to raise public awareness on the chilling effects of SLAPP suits.

Second, send a letter and urge your MPP to pass anti-SLAPP legislation. Let’s protect free speech in Ontario.

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