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

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.

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Council asked to endorse legislation against lawsuits targeting public participation
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Our citizens throughout the city and province must be free to participate in reasonable public comment on matters of community interest without fear of legal action that could be potentially financially crippling, and can have a chilling effect on public dialogue
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