The following article originally found in the Saanich Voice Online is of great interest to all non-profit organizations.
Sep 29, 2017 Editor
THE UNION OF BC MUNICIPALITIES MET IN SEPTEMBER OVER 144 MOTIONS
by Michele Murphy
Anti-SLAPP Legislation at UBCM
Lots may be coming out of the 2017 annual general meeting of the
Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). The theme this year is ‘Roots to
Results’ looking at the increasing leadership of local government in
matters of federal and provincial jurisdiction. This year’s program
includes keynotes, policy sessions, and workshops on climate action,
the opioid crisis, and the need for a deeper response to homelessness
and housing affordability.
Resolutions that have been brought to the annual forum by councillors
hopeful of gaining support include mitigation for the destruction and
prevention of wildfires, the handling of recreational marijuana at the
community level, dealing with rats, Canada geese, deer, and UBER,
daylight savings time, and Oak Bay Coun. Kevin Murdock’s successful
motion to put some long-overdue restrictions on and transparency in
BC’s wild-west of municipal campaign financing.
There are approx. 144 motions being voted on during the five-day
convention, most of which have to do with lobbying the new provincial
government to take action on various issues.
Central Saanich Coun. Zeb King went to this year’s meeting with just
that intention – to once again ask that the Province to create and
enforce anti-SLAPP legislation.
According to Wikipedia, a strategic lawsuit against public
participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor,
intimidate, and silence critics.
Th BC. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) says that SLAPPs represent
a real and present danger to the exercise of free expression in BC,
saying that lawfully participating in the political life of this
province can be a risky business.
In plain language, a SLAPP is a lawsuit that a person or company with
deep pockets starts in order to shut down someone that is speaking out
against them. The idea is that the person speaking out doesn’t have
the money or the time to defend themselves, so they shut-up or face
legal consequences of some sort.
King’s motion contended that SLAPPS are intended to penalize or deter
citizens and municipalities from participating in public affairs,
unnecessarily burden on our overcrowded public court system, exists in
other Canadian jurisdictions and as such requests that the BC
Government enact robust anti-SLAPP legislation that will protect the
right to communicate on matters of public interest.
This won’t be provincial anti-SLAPP legislation’s first time around in
BC. The last time the BC NDP were in power, in 2001, they passed what
BCCLA said was perhaps one of North America’s most robust and
innovative laws of the type. B.C.’s Protection for Public
Participation Act was Canada’s first anti-SLAPP legislation. Weeks
after it was passed the BC NDP were defeated in the provincial
election and the BC Liberals immediately axed the SLAPP legislation.
Despite repeated requests to reinstate the legislation, the BC
Liberals refused to do so.
But there’s a new sheriff in town.
Reporting in from UBCM King says that after some last-minute drama
around AGM process his motion to ask the Province to enact this
legislation passed. King added that he spoke briefly to Attorney
General David Eby who thanked him for the anti-SLAPP resolution and
said it is on his agenda for next session. King added that he felt the
new AG was “very supportive.”
Anti-SLAPP legislation in BC may soon be a reality.
Editor’s note: As a small independent newspaper, with a limited legal
budget ($0.00), Saanich Voice Online follows the progress of this
legislation with great interest. Without the protection of our courts,
media outlets are extremely vulnerable to SLAPP and have to make
difficult editorial choices to avoid putting themselves in the
cross-hairs of deep-pocketed news subjects.