We finally get to debate anti-SLAPP legislation in British Columbia.
Many constituents of Saanich North and the Islands have written my office encouraging us to bring this legislation in to force and I am happy it is now in front of us.
While we need to balance the rights of all sides of the public discourse, it concerns me that the legal system can use chill public participation. While my colleague, Michael Lee (Vancouver-Langara) argued that there are already legal protections in place, they are clearly not enough as members of the public are quieted with litigation.
Often just being served is enough to freeze a persons willingness to continue to participate.
It’s my pleasure to stand today and speak to Bill 2, the Protection of Public Participation Act of 2019. I think that it’s important to frame my very brief comments on this bill with the amount of correspondence that I have received in support of the legislation that was proposed last year, as was raised by the member who spoke previously.
I know that this is an issue — the SLAPP suits, anti-SLAPP legislation or the Protection of Public Participation Act that we see in front of us today to debate — that is of particular interest to my constituents. I know that as someone who’s been in local government, I’ve seen how this has impacted citizens in my community over the years, how they have been participating in public processes, involved in their communities and involved in ensuring that their municipality and their local governments and, indeed, the provincial government are undertaking good process, and having every right to stand up for themselves and for their rights as citizens and individuals in a community and how they have been chilled by being served.
I know my colleague is going to speak to this, and so I’m not going to speak at great length to this. But in many respects, just the act of someone standing on your front doorstep and serving you with legal documents — and in large part, people that have never had any entry to any relationship with the law in that way at all — has a way of crippling your willingness and your willingness to participate in these public processes.
So, I’m certainly pleased to be able to stand on behalf of the numerous constituents from Saanich North and the Islands and beyond who have contacted me to say that this has had a negative impact on their lives — the strategic lawsuits against public participation and how that has impacted their lives. I’m pleased to be able to stand today as the government is putting forward legislation to deal with this.
SLAPP repealed 20 years ago
I know that 20 years ago, anti-SLAPP legislation was repealed by the former B.C. Liberal government. One of the points that was made, which I find kind of troubling in one of the quotes, is that they were concerned about it creating a “protest culture.” I think that it’s important that we acknowledge that what evolved instead in this province was a culture of entitlement.
So, as we are making sure that we protect the public interest, and I respect the member who spoke previously about the important debate that I think that the two legal minds on both sides of this House are going to have during the committee stage. I certainly look forward to witnessing that and participating as my rather small legal mind can.
But, I would just say that I think that it is important that we have that discussion about the public interest because that’s clearly what our main role here is in this place, is to protect and to act in the public interest.
So, as we work towards reinvigorating that in our province, taking the focus away from the special interest and private interests and working on behalf of the public interests, I’m heartened by the government’s efforts to discourage the use of litigation as a means to unduly limit the participation of the public. I look forward to the debate, as I mentioned.
Frankly, I would have spoken a lot longer on this, but the member for Vancouver–Point Grey, our Attorney General, must have got hold of my notes, so he really…. Without being repetitive, I would say that he did a very thorough job of explaining his bill, and I look forward to engaging at the committee stage of this debate.