Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Anti-SLAPP Task Force Reports to Attorney General

Posted by auroracitizen on January 7, 2011

On Oct 28, 2010, the Anti-SLAPP task force released their report to the Attorney General regarding SLAPP lawsuits intended expressly to stifle public participation.

As with most task force reports it is quite comprehensive, and doesn’t always make for light reading.

But we thought you would be interested to hear that on page 22/23 the report specifically references the recent lawsuit by Phyllis Morris as an example.

Politicians’ right to sue in defamation
Paragraph 91: In Ontario, municipal governments do not have the right to sue in defamation.[35] However, there are several recent cases in which municipal councillors have sued someone for criticisms aimed at the municipality or municipal interests generally.[36] Sometimes municipalities pay the expenses of these suits. The question arises whether this is a way of avoiding the general prohibition against municipal libel actions. The cases almost by definition involve matters of public interest, and the resources of an individual or ratepayers’ group against a municipal government funding an individual politician’s lawsuit are likely to be unequal.

Reference 36 takes you to the following notation

[36] For example, “Maybe You Heard About The Lawsuit”, Aurora Citizen, October 15, 2010:

This lawsuit is used to demonstrate the inequity with the balance of power between a municipality and a private citizen and is one of the core issues that the task force was engaged to examine.

When politicians use public funds to stifle free speech, this issue strikes to the very heart of our charter of rights.

The full report can be see on the Attorney Generals website:

PDF of Report

3 Responses to “Anti-SLAPP Task Force Reports to Attorney General”

  1. JOHN H SARGENT said

    RE Ex Mayor MORRIS law suit against Aurora citizens ..As long as someone pays it makes money for a law firm period, as that is their matters, law suits, whatever…whether it right or wrong is not their issues , long as they not break the law in doing so, yet they can and will try and find a loop hole in their clients favor within the law , which at times can set legal reference for cases in future if successful ..In closing lets not to be to quick to judge a law firm by the cases they take on, if someone has money to spend so be it, My view is that its sad to have got this far

  2. Paul Sesto said

    Great to see this coming out!

    I did a quick scan and I especially found interesting the following recommendation on page i Issue 2: Appropriate remedies for SLAPP suits:

    9. If a suit fails to meet the test, the case should be dismissed. [44]
    10. If the case is dismissed, full indemnity cost should be awarded to the defendant. [44]
    11. If the court finds bad faith or improper motive on the part of the plaintiff, the court should award damages to the defendant in such amount as is just. [46]

    Later in the full text on page 11 under remedies citing above [46]:

    [46] As stated above, the court should not be required to make findings as to bad faith or improper motive on the part of the plaintiff in deciding a motion under the special procedure. If in a particular case, however, the court is satisfied on the record before it that an action has been brought in bad faith or for an improper motive, such as punishing, silencing or intimidating the defendant rather than any legitimate pursuit of a legal remedy, an additional remedy should be available for this improper conduct. In such circumstances, the court should have the power to award damages to the defendant in such amount as is just.

    I recognize that the above is only a report with recommendations and the legal proceedings are not over yet. But, if the motion is dismissed can our 3 Aurora citizens as a minimum recover their legal costs? And if so, since the Town of Aurora originally funded this action (though stopped as of December 22) is it still liable for its involvement or is solely the responsibility of now private citizen Phyllis Morris? Either way Bishenden, Johnson and Hogg should not be left holding the bill.

    • MIA said

      Defamation, affirmation, confirmation. Serious words.

      But when the truth is spoken or written it should be accepted as such.

      The people have spoken the truth, and this action should never have been initiated.

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