Council unanimously endorses legislation against lawsuits targeting public participation; City wins case on infilling at Airport

Council unanimously endorses legislation against lawsuits targeting public participation; City wins case on infilling at Airport

  |   Burlington Airpark   |   3 Comments
Photo showing height of landfilling at airport.

Photo showing height of landfilling at airport.

Council has unanimously passed a resolution asking the provincial government to reintroduce legislation to curb lawsuits that chill public participation and debate on matters of public interest.

Bill 83, the Protection of Public Participation Act, would amend the libel and slander act to protect members of the public who speak out on matters of public interest from being sued by others. The act is commonly referred to as anti-SLAPP legislation, for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

Bill 83 would allow SLAPP suits to be dismissed at an early stage, indemnify defendants from incurring costs, and provide for awards in certain circumstances.

Three Burlington residents – Monte Dennis, Vanessa Warren and Pepper Parr – have recently been sued for their comments about the Burlington Executive Airport.

My Take: I’m pleased to co-sponsor the resolution with Councillor John Taylor, at the request of residents. The bill will help protect residents from suits that silence and intimidate the public from speaking out on contentious matters of public interest.

City wins case on infilling at Airport

The city recently won a court victory that our site alteration bylaws apply to infilling at the airport. The Airport had appealed a lower court ruling that the city’s bylaws applied; the appeal judge upheld the lower court ruling and awarded the city $22k in legal costs.

Read the court of appeal decision here

Read the original decision here

My Take: There were gasps and tears of joy in the courtroom when the judges ruled in favour of the city. None of us there that day expected a ruling so quickly; we held our breath till the judges exited then the courtroom erupted with shouts and claps. It was a terrific outcome to a long-fought battle in which the residents never wavered from their position that local laws apply where they do not infringe on aeronautics. I’ll never forget sharing this moment with the community.

Your Take: What’s your view of the SLAPP legislation? Thoughts on the city’s court victory? Leave a comment below.

  • Bob Prociuk | Jun 30, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    With the court case decided in favour of the city, what is the next step?

    Can’t comment on the proposal to reintroduce Bill 83 as there are probably a lot of legal technicalities in it. Although citizens should not fear speaking out on issues, they also need to understand that their comments can sometimes cause both financial and emotional hardships for those at whom they are directed. The case of protection from powerful organizations seems intuitively just but what if neighbours start insulting each other and publish derogatory or misleading comments. Will these cases be dismissed under SLAPP even when damages have been done and who gets to decide.

    Very often what seems like a great law on paper has hidden and unintended consequences that revel themselves well after the original intent of the legislation is forgotten.

  • Jerry Fairbridge | Jul 1, 2014 at 10:18 am

    We need the legislation. As I understand it, lawsuits would still go to court but the court could bring a quick end to suits intended as intimidation and the intimidator would pay costs. But I haven’t read anywhere what now happens with the airport infill. Is this just another case where someone ignores the rules and gets away with it because of legal delays?

  • Albert Faccenda | Jul 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Slander and lying should never be tolerated, even when its in the Public interest. I know very little about what was said in this matter. Peoples reputations have been badly tarnished. If for the right reasons, the person deserves what they get and should be made to pay for this frivolous lawsuit with damages to those named. But if those named are found liable they should pay big time. No one should face public humiliation with no recourse in the courts. If the courts take too long to process applications and fails to toss out invalid claims quickly and cost effectively. Take that up the Provincial Courts and their crooked lawyer friends. Who set this system up to bleed everyone dry and drag on forever. On a final note I attended a council meeting and I was shocked when one of the named people in this lawsuit and in front of entire a room full of people cast aspersions over councillors getting donations from developers and what that was supposed to allege. I know what I concluded and it was not in my opinion complimentary to the councillors. Some people just can not keep their mouths shut. Watch the Web cast of the meeting and conclude for yourself were they were going with this. I would encourage the person to post on this web page what they meant by their comments. I would also encourage the person suing them to get a copy of the tape

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