THE ADVOCATE 569
VOL. 77 PART 4 JULY 2019
By Chris Tollefson*
BRITISH COLUMBIA ENACTS AN(OTHER) ANTI-SLAPP LAW: A LAW REFORM
SAGA IN TWO ACTS
With little fanfare, apart from a ministerial tweet, on March 7, 2019 the B.C.
legislature unanimously passed Bill 2, the Protection of Public Participation
Act.1 This occasion should not go unnoticed. With the passage of this bill
into law, our province joins Ontario, Quebec and 34 American states2 which
have now legislated protection against what have become colloquially
known as “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (“SLAPPs”).
Bill 2 is actually British Columbia’s second anti-SLAPP law. Our first
became law in 2001 in response to a law reform campaign that commenced
in the mid-1990s. Those efforts culminated in the passage of Bill 10, a law
likewise entitled the Protection of Public Participation Act.3 Only a few
months later, however, this law—Canada’s first anti-SLAPP statute—was
repealed following a change in government.
Almost two decades later, the B.C. legislature has once again passed anti-
SLAPP legislation. The story of how (and why) B.C. has rejoined the ranks
of jurisdictions that extend legislated protection against SLAPP suits is
worth telling. In the process, the implications of Bill 2, which in my view
could be quite significant, may become clearer.
Most lawyers have at least a passing familiarity with the concept of
SLAPPs. The first-ever anti-SLAPP law was enacted in the State of Washington
some 30 years ago. Today, most North American lawyers practise in
jurisdictions that have anti-SLAPP laws on the books.4
The term “SLAPP” was coined back in the early 1980s by two American
academics: George Pring and Penelope Canan.5 They argued that SLAPPs
threatened democracy by allowing powerful interests to silence and pun-
* Chris Tollefson is a professor at UVic Law.