Former NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh joins Wally Oppal and retired Supreme Court justices in open letter. By Jason Proctor.
A judicial who’s who including two retired Supreme Court of Canada justices and a pair of former B.C. attorneys general are calling on British Columbia to introduce laws to deter strategic lawsuits against public participation — also known as SLAPPs.
In an open letter to B.C. Attorney General David Eby, former NDP premier and attorney general Ujjal Dosanjh, former Liberal attorney general Wally Oppal and former Supreme Court justices Frank Iacobucci and Ian Binnie say anti-SLAPP legislation is needed to keep deep-pocketed plaintiffs from discouraging free speech by threatening critics with costly legal action.
…The two-page letter was also signed by former B.C. Supreme Court justice Lynn Smith, former B.C. provincial court Chief Judge Carol Baird Ellan and University of B.C. law school dean Catherine Dauvergne. Other signatories include lawyer Joseph Arvay, novelist William Deverell and a handful of law professors…. B.C. introduced anti-SLAPP legislation under the last NDP government in 2001, but the Liberals repealed it shortly after taking office months later.
The authors of the letter point to “defects” in the old legislation, “which required defendants who attempted to use the mechanism to demonstrate an improper motive on the part of the plaintiff.”
The SLAPP issue was highlighted in a defamation suit brought by Taseko Mines against the Wilderness Committee which rose all the way to the B.C. Court of Appeal. In siding with the Wilderness Committee, the original trial judge issued a penalty against Taseko as a rebuke. But he found that it was up to the legislature to decide on special costs for SLAPP suits.
The appeal court upheld the victory for the Wilderness Committee, but overturned the special costs in part because the judge didn’t find that the suit was actually a SLAPP.
The issue also arose in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit launched against five Kinder Morgan protesters in 2014 by Trans Mountain.