Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is a civil claim which has the sole purpose of silencing political expression. The initiation of litigation itself is the objective of a SLAPP, rather than the underlying claim. To put this objective another way, a SLAPP is litigation strategically commenced to transform a political dispute into a legal one. The filing of a SLAPP is an increasingly common tactic employed by claimants with superior resources, or relatively easy access to the courts, to force political opponents into a legal battle and intimidate them away from participation in political dialogue. To protect freedom of political expression and democratic dialogue from the chilling effect of a SLAPP, some jurisdictions have enacted legislation that provides a process for courts to identify a claim as a SLAPP and summarily dismiss it. The provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have enacted this type of anti-SLAPP legislation. In recent years, clinic students have published commentary on ABlawg regarding judicial consideration of anti-SLAPP legislation in Ontario and British Columbia.

The Clinic is investigating the need for anti-SLAPP legislation in Alberta. This project has several phases: (1) literature review on SLAPPs, including consideration of Byron Sheldrick, Blocking Public Participation: The Use of Strategic Litigation to Silence (WLU Press, 2014); (2) research on the use of SLAPPs in other jurisdictions including the European Union; (3) doctrinal research on judicial decisions interpreting anti-SLAPP legislation in Ontario and British Columbia, including the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v Pointes Protection Association, 2020 SCC 22; (4) consultation.

This matter is ongoing.