THE ADVOCATE 217
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
By David Wotherspoon and Komal Jatoi
“Litigation can be a potent weapon in the hands of the rich and powerful”.1
n March 25, 2019, British Columbia’s anti-SLAPP legislation,
the Protection of Public Participation Act2 (the “PPPA”), received
royal assent. The legislation, which passed unanimously, targets
litigation aimed at silencing debate on issues of public
interest—i.e., strategic litigation against public participation (“SLAPP”) lawsuits.
The PPPA applies to proceedings commenced on or after May 15, 2018
and may provide legal protection to individuals who have had proceedings
commenced against them for expressing themselves on matters of public
COMMON LAW SLAPP DEFENCE
The PPPA is neither B.C.’s first attempt at introducing anti-SLAPP legislation
nor the first anti-SLAPP legislation in Canada. Anti-SLAPP legislation was
previously introduced by the BC NDP in 2001, but its tenure was short-lived.
Soon after its enactment, the Liberals were elected and repealed the legislation.
Outside of B.C., anti-SLAPP legislation was enacted in Ontario in 2015,
as detailed below, and in Quebec in 2009. This article focuses on the legislation
in B.C. and Ontario, given the operation of civil law in Quebec.
In Northwest Organics, Limited Partnership v. Maguire,3 the B.C. Court of
Appeal rejected an attempt to advance a common law defence that the
claim was improper as a SLAPP suit. At the B.C. Supreme Court, the defendants
had applied for an order dismissing the plaintiffs’ claim of defamation
as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation”. The defendants
brought the application pursuant to ss. 2(b) (freedom of thought, belief,
opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of
communication) and 24(1) (enforcement of guaranteed rights and freedoms)
of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Rules 1-3 (object of