Burlington City Council Unanimously Endorses Anti-SLAPP Resolution

Last night, Councillors John Taylor (Ward 3) and Marianne Meed Ward (Ward 2) championed a Council Resolution that outlined the need for Anti-SLAPP legislation in the Province of Ontario.  It asked that “The City of Burlington advise the newly elected Premier…and its local (MPPs) of its support for the Protection of Public Participation Act 2014 (Bill 83) and request that the Bill be reintroduced forthwith in the Legislature;”.  It further requested that Mayor Goldring meet with Burlington’s new MPPs about this issue, and that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario be requested to support the resolution as well.

Councillor’s Taylor and Meed Ward, Mayor Goldring and City Manager Pat Moyle all spoke eloquently in support of the resolution, and in support of the defendants of the Airpark libel suit.  The resolution then passed unanimously in a recorded vote.

Thank you to all members of Council and City Staff who have sent an important message to Ottawa and Queen’s Park and to our City’s own advocacy community; that our City values public participation, public dialogue and the debate that informs not just policy decisions, but our quality of life.



COUNCIL RESOLUTION, June 30th, 2014  

WHEREAS Bill 83, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014 being “An Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act, the Libel and Slander Act and the Statutory Powers of Procedure Act in order to protect expression on matters of public interest” was introduced into the Provincial Legislature in June 2013;

WHEREAS Bill 83 was introduced by the government out of concern that Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), being lawsuits brought before the court by one party against another party or individual as a tactic for silencing or intimidating the other party, are having a chilling effect on public participation on contentious matters of public interest in Ontario; 

WHEREAS Bill 83 is intended to protect persons from being subjected to legal proceedings that would stifle their ability to speak out on public issues or promote, in the public interest, action by the public or any level of government;

WHEREAS the ability to engage in public participation forums is the foundation of a democratic society;

WHEREAS there exist a number of high profile environmental issues in the City of Burlington that are of public interest and that have generated a great deal of debate in the community;

WHEREAS City Council is of the opinion that public participation in matters of public interest ought to be encouraged and not discouraged through tactics such as strategic lawsuits against public participation;

WHEREAS provision is made in Bill 83 to amend the Courts of Justice Act  for such SLAPP  legal proceeding to be dismissed at an early stage and for defendants subjected to such proceedings to be indemnified for incurred costs in such proceedings with the potential for additional damages to be awarded in appropriate circumstances;

WHEREAS provision is made in Bill 83 to amend the Libel and Slander Act to state that any qualified privilege that applies in respect of an oral or written communication on a matter of public interest between two or more persons who have a direct interest in the matter applies regardless of whether the communication is witnessed or reported on by media representatives or other persons; 

WHEREAS provision is made in Bill 83 to amend the Statutory Powers Procedure Act to provide that submissions for a costs order in a proceeding  must be made in writing, unless the tribunal determines that to do so is likely to cause a party to the proceeding significant prejudice;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Council of the City of Burlington advise the newly elected Premier of the Province of Ontario, the Honorable Kathleen Wynne and its local members of Provincial Legislative Assembly of its support for the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014 (Bill 83) and request that the Bill be re-introduced forthwith in the Legislature;

THAT Mayor Goldring be requested to meet with Burlington’s newly elected Member of Provincial Parliament, Eleanor McMahon to encourage the Province to re-introduce the anti-SLAPP legislation; and

THAT the Association of Municipalities of Ontario be requested to support this resolution.



An Open Letter to Regional Chair Gary Carr, Mayor Rick Goldring, and Burlington City Council

Burlington, Ont. – June 13, 2014

On behalf of the residents of rural north Burlington, the members of the Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition and I would like to congratulate you on your enormous victory at the Ontario Court of Appeal. Thank you and City Staff for all your work and leadership on this precedent-setting case.

Because of your commitment to protect our rural north and its protected countryside, the City of Burlington now stands as an example to other Ontario communities dealing with airpark fill operations.

The summary nature of the Appeal Court’s dismissal was, for our community, both gladdening and concerning.

Gladdening because the City was so clearly vindicated and can now proceed to test and control fill quality on Airpark property through its Site Alteration bylaw, protecting our lands and water table from environmental damage. Concerning because it affirmed our beliefs that the Burlington Airpark and its legal team are unreasonably litigious.

Our community continues to be under serious threat from the Burlington Airpark, this time through the use of Ontario’s onerous defamation laws against local advocates. Their counsel, Brian Rogers, a leading libel lawyer and member of the Attorney General’s Anti-SLAPP Advisory Panel, intends to defend them on the basis this lawsuit is no more than a SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). In short, it is another legal action, without merit, brought to intimidate, silence and exhaust – both emotionally and financially – its opponents.

Burlington’s strong and vocal advocates and citizen groups play a critical role in protecting our environment, social justice and quality of life. The ‘libel chill’ that could result from the Airpark’s SLAPP suit, and the damage it could cause the targeted defendants put that critical public engagement in jeopardy.

So, while we are elated with the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal today, and grateful for the City’s commitment to environmental protection, we need your support now more than ever. We need to defend public engagement and public advocacy – the cornerstones of our democratic system – from the Burlington Airpark’s SLAPP suit, so that this type of legal coercion does not silence the citizens of Burlington.

Regards, Vanessa Warren


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Monte Dennis
Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coalition Co-Chair and SLAPP-suit defendant (905) 315-9388

Vanessa Warren SLAPP suit defendant 905-334-6750

Ken Woodruff
Rural Burlington Greenbelt Coaltion Co-Chair (905) 572-3505