Author Topic: Ontario's Protection of Public Participation Act  (Read 299 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Warren Toda

  • Administrator
  • Toronto
  • Posts: 1946
      • www.warrentoda.com
      • Email
Ontario's Protection of Public Participation Act
« on: January 16, 2017, 10:06 PM »
In November 2015, Ontario enacted its Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA), better known as anti-SLAPP legislation. The PPPA amends existing legislation so as to provide a new procedure for protecting freedom of expression on matters of public interest.

The purpose of the PPPA is to prevent strategic lawsuits, often called a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). This type of lawsuit is often used by an individual or company to silence their outspoken critics. The party that initiates such a lawsuit is usually larger, wealthier or otherwise much stronger than the other party.

The PPPA has been used at least twice so far: Platnick v. Bent 2016 and 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association.

The next test of the new law involves freelance photographer and writer, Stacey Newman, who is also an NPAC member.





Newman, who lives in Milton, west of Toronto, was in 2015 a longstanding member of the Liberal Party. She was/is also an active volunteer in various Milton community projects and organizations.

In mid-2015, the federal Liberal party was seeking a candidate in the newly created riding of Milton to run in the October 2015 election. The person whom Newman supported in the nomination process did not win the candidacy.

In the 2015 federal election, the chosen Liberal candidate for Milton, businessman Azim Rizvee, lost to Lisa Raitt, the incumbent Conservative MP and well-known cabinet minister since 2008.

From the nomination meeting in July 2015 to the October 2015 federal election, Newman alleged that she was repeatedly harassed by Rizvee and his supporters. She lodged a complaint with the federal Liberal Party which didn't respond until after the election. She reported everything to the police who suggested that she obtain a peace bond against Rizvee.

After the election, she again contacted the Liberal Party which refused to get involved saying that it was no longer its problem since Rizvee lost. Newman has since resigned her Liberal membership.

At this point, Newman publicly alleged in written posts on web sites including rabble.ca and Facebook that she had been verbally and physically harassed and threatened by Rizvee and members of his campaign who "engaged in tactics meant to intimidate, harass and threaten" her.  (source)

She also "sent an open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada to advise of the (alleged) misconduct of the Rizvee campaign. This was done to create awareness in Milton regarding how political institutions and actors operate, as well as to hold these bodies accountable."  (source)

Three weeks after the federal election, Newman, still concerned for her safety, started the peace bond process. This required multiple court appearances.

A crown attorney in March 2016 advised Newman about the difficulties of pursuing criminal harassment charges. He suggested that she withdraw her application for a peace bond and instead request a court warning be given to Rizvee. This would be on record and would carry some legal weight.

Newman withdrew her application for a peace bond and Rizvee was issued a court warning.

Shortly after this, Azim Rizvee and his wife Rabiya Azim (his wife is his business partner and she acted as his campaign manager) filed suit against Newman. They are seeking $16M for defamation plus $1.5M for malicious prosecution (for Newman's attempt to obtain a peace bond against him).

Newman and her lawyers filed a motion to have the suit dismissed under Ontario's Protection of Public Participation Act.

The motion claims that Newman refused to support Rizvee and that "she also refused to allow [him] to exert his influence over a non-partisan social activist group that she created." This caused a resentment of Newman.

The motion also claims that the motivation for the defamation suit "is to seek retribution against Ms. Newman for interfering with Mr. Rizvee's political goals...".

The motion hearing in Milton’s Superior Court of Justice has been put over until January 18, 2017.




The defamation suit must be dismissed under the PPPA if :

(note that I've phrased the last two tests slightly differently than the wording in the actual law so that all three tests are worded in the same affirmation which I think makes it easier to follow)


1) The proceeding arises from an expression made by Newman that relates to a matter of public interest.

AND

2) The defamation suit does *not* have substantial merit  OR  Newman has a valid defence.

OR

3) The harm likely to be or has been suffered by Rizvee is *not* sufficiently serious that the public interest in permitting the proceeding to continue does *not* outweigh the public interest in protecting that expression.






Generally, it's very difficult (impossible?) to defame someone through the publication of a photo. This assumes the photo has not been manipulated or altered to show something that didn't really exist or happen. It is possible for a photo caption to defame someone.

Defamation suits are usually triggered by written or spoken communication to a third party.


« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 04:44 PM by Warren Toda »

Photographer in Toronto
info@warrentoda.com

Offline Warren Toda

  • Administrator
  • Toronto
  • Posts: 1946
      • www.warrentoda.com
      • Email
Re: Ontario's Protection of Public Participation Act
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2017, 03:46 AM »
Stacey Newman has been successful in her use of Ontario's anti-SLAPP legislation. The $16M defamation case against her has been dismissed and the case has set a legal precedent with regard to speech directed at a political candidate.

Newman said, "This was initially about the harassment I have had to deal with at the hands of a politician, but the decision is of importance to Canadian journalists and the protection of free speech."


Quote from: Warren Toda
The defamation suit must be dismissed under the PPPA if :

(note that I've phrased the last two tests slightly differently than the wording in the actual law so that all three tests are worded in the same affirmation which I think makes it easier to follow)

1) The proceeding arises from an expression made by Newman that relates to a matter of public interest.

AND

2) The defamation suit does *not* have substantial merit  OR  Newman has a valid defence.

OR

3) The harm likely to be or has been suffered by Rizvee is *not* sufficiently serious that the public interest in permitting the proceeding to continue does *not* outweigh the public interest in protecting that expression.

The judge ruled:

1) Yes, the matter was public interest.

2) The defamation suit did have merit BUT the other party failed to prove that Newman did not have a valid defence.

3) A judgement on this was not necessary because of the judge's ruling on #2. But the judge nevertheless still said, "... the Plaintiffs have provided no meaningful evidence of harm to their reputation attributable to the comments made by Ms. Newman." So basically, protecting Newman's right to free speech outweighed any public interest in allowing the defamation suit to proceed.


The judge also noted that the other party's claim for $16M suggested to him that "the Plaintiffs intended the claim to send a warning and related chill to Ms. Newman and others who might be inclined to comment against the Plaintiffs’ interests.  In defamation cases, there can be a wide range to the ultimate damages awarded.  However, on the face of this claim it is difficult to see how the Plaintiffs could quantify a $16 million damages award."


However the $1.5M suit against Newman for malicious prosecution is still ongoing. But Newman's lawyer was quoted as saying that the malicious prosecution claim is unlikely to succeed because the judge found there was no malice on the part of Newman.

« Last Edit: July 11, 2017, 06:21 PM by Warren Toda »

Photographer in Toronto
info@warrentoda.com