1994 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 35th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
MS. MARGARET LORD
WHEREAS the right to participate freely in the process of government, public discourse and debate is fundamental to the functioning of our democratic system;
WHEREAS this right is seriously undermined by civil actions brought primarily to chill citizen participation or otherwise to harass or intimidate citizens and citizen's organizations.
AND WHEREAS there is a need to reform the legal system to discourage the bringing of such actions.
HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, enacts as follows:
1 For the purposes of this Act, "action" mean any legal action for damages brought in a Court of Law, and includes a counter-claim.
"applicant" is a person who, pursuant to this Act, brings a motion to dismiss an action.
"government" includes all federal, provincial and municipal government departments, agencies and officials.
"person" includes any non-profit organization, trade union or group, whether or not incorporated, and any director or member of any organization that is subjected to an action to which this Act applies.
"respondent" is a person who is required to respond to a motion to dismiss under this Act.
2 Every person has the right to participate freely in the process of government including the right to petition and communicate with government, and to freedom of speech, association and demonstration on matters of public policy.
3 Subject to sections 6 and 9, no action shall be brought or maintained against a person for any act arising from or in furtherance of rights protected by this Act.
4 A person who alleges that an action or claim has been brought for the prupose of limiting a person's enjoyment or use of the right in section 2 may, at any time, bring a motion to dismiss the action.
5 A motion to dismiss under section 4:
(a) may be brought on seven (7) days notice, and shall be given priority by the Court,
(b) may be decided on the basis of pleadings or affidavit evidence,
(c) may be decided without discovery, and where a motion is brought prior to or during discovery, discovery shall be suspended pending the motion.
6 (1) A motion shall be granted where the applicant establishes on a clear and compelling basis that the action was brought to deprive a person of the free and proper use and enjoyment of the rights accorded in section 2.
(2) A motion shall not be granted where the Court finds that:
(a) the action is not one to which this Act applies; or
(b) the motion of the applicant lacked any reasonable basis in fact; or
(c) the applicant's primary purpose was to harass the respondent, or pursue some other private purpose other than the free exercise of the rights protected by this Act.
7 (1) The Court shall award an applicant who prevails in a motion under this Act fees and costs on a special basis; or punitive costs as deemed appropriate by the Court, and costs
(2) The Court may hear evidence, order discovery or make any other such consequential orders as the Court may deem just to meet the policy objectives of this Act.
(3) Where the Court finds the motion of the applicant lacked any reasonable basis in fact, and the applicant's primary purpose was to harass the respon dent, or pursue some other private purpose other than the free exercise of the rights protected by this Act, the Court shall not grant the motion to dismiss and the Court may award a respondent fees and costs on a special basis or punitive costs as deemed appropriate by the Court, and costs.
8 (1) A person may petition the Court for damages in conjunction with a motion under this Act.
(2) If the motion is granted, and the Court is satisfied that the Plaintiff filed the cause of action, claim, or counterclaim for the purpose of
(b) inhibiting the person's exercise of protected rights under this Act, or
(c) otherwise injuring the person, the Court shall award the person actual damages, and may award punitive damages.
9 This Act does not apply to an action against a person for the deliberate destruction of property or the deliberate infliction of physical injury to other persons.
10 This Act comes into force by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are lawsuits in which powerful and wealthy interests, typically in the form of a corporation, seek civil damages for criticisms expressed in a public forum.
The purpose of this act is to curtail the use of SLAPPs by reaffirming the fundamental right to participate freely in the process of government, public discourse and debate; and by awarding actual and punitive damages, in addition to lawyer fees and costs, to an applicant who demonstrates that civil action was brought primarily to chill participation or otherwise to harass or intimidate citizens and citizen's organizations.
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