British Columbia Legislature (File Photo)

The provincial government has just announced a bill that is intended to safeguard individuals and groups from lawsuits that target their freedom of expression.

The Protection of Public Participation Act aims to prevent lengthy litigations that look to silence people or bury them in legal fees when they try to express their views on matters of public interest.

Under the Act, individuals served with a lawsuit that impedes the expression of their views on public interest topics can appeal to the court to dismiss the case, which would be carried out unless the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s free speech causes legitimate harm.

Perhaps most importantly, the law would allow courts to compensate defendants for legal costs during the process.

“The legal system is vulnerable to so-called SLAPP [strategic lawsuits against public participation] lawsuits that are intended solely to censor public opinion, to intimidate people and to silence critics. SLAPP lawsuits strategically, and without merit, prevent free discussion on matters of public interest. I welcome today’s legislation,” said Wally Oppal, OBC, QC, former attorney general of British Columbia and former justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

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