B.C. introduces anti-SLAPP legislation to protect public interest debates

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RCMP officers gather nearby as protesters opposed to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion defy a court order and block a gate at the company’s facility, in Burnaby, B.C., on Saturday April 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The British Columbia government has introduced legislation that would prevent lawsuits used to silence critics with unfair or costly legal action.

Attorney General David Eby says the bill would ensure the protection of free public debate by safeguarding people from strategic lawsuits against public participation, or so-called SLAPP suits.

Eby says such lawsuits can limit or prevent criticism over issues of public interest and the legislation was a New Democrat promise from last year’s election campaign.

The proposed law would allow defendants to ask courts to dismiss lawsuits on the grounds they harm the defendant’s ability to speak freely on a matter of public interest.

Eby says the proposed law will be debated next fall in the legislature.

Earlier this year, former B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh, attorney general Wally Oppal and numerous civil rights and environmental groups publicly called on the government to introduce anti-SLAPP legislation.

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