Toronto – At a recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) meeting, the umbrella organization threw its support behind efforts to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), resolving to  meet with the province to find solutions to prevent SLAPPS and to avoid undue costs placed on citizens in Ontario Municipal Board hearings. AMO was prompted to act by resolutions passed by the cities of Mississauga and Hamilton, and echoed by 62 other municipalities, calling for anti-SLAPP legislation.
The City of Hamilton resolved to “Support the efforts of MPP Andrea Horwath with respect to the current Bill 138 – Protection of Public Participation Act, 2008.” Bill 138 is a Private Member’s Bill from last December which proposes anti-SLAPP legislation in Ontario. The municipalities who supported this resolution ranged from the Town of Ajax, to the Township of Cramahe, and every size in between.
“SLAPPs are happening in municipalities all over Ontario,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “They are a form of legal bullying intended to threaten, harass and ultimately silence opposition and are an increasingly frequent occurrence in the public planning sector.”
“These are real people who are worried about developments in their communities but don’t want to lose their houses for standing up to developers,” said Hugh Wilkins, staff lawyer at Ecojustice.
AMO’s action further supports the recent report from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, who labeled SLAPPs a threat to public participation and called on the government to create effective laws to prevent them.
Environmental Defence, along with Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, hear from many people worried about facing a SLAPP for speaking out against developments — people like Linda Cole, who know first-hand about the far-reaching consequences a SLAPP suit can have. As President of Friends of East Lake, an organization that has faced the OMB over a development in Prince Edward County, she has heard from many people who would like to oppose the construction of a huge resort in the area. But too many of them have heard about SLAPPs in other Ontario communities and aren’t willing to take the risk.
 
 “It is difficult enough to bear the costs of the OMB process, but with the constant threat of legal action fewer and fewer people are willing to put their neck on the line,” said Cole.
 
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For further information contact, or to arrange interviews, please contact:                                       
Jennifer Foulds,  Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Hugh Wilkins, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice Canada, Tel: (416) 368-7533 x34, hwilkins@ecojustice.ca