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Friday, 27 November 2009

Local Governments bring cyber-SLAPPs against bloggers

Some of our allies in the legal profession have provided us with the following warning about Government Encroachment:

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One to Watch: Local Governments bring cyber-SLAPPs against bloggers

Leblanc et als. v. Municipality of Rawdon et als.
(Quebec Court of Appeal)
February 2010

How would you feel if a local Municipal Government, and its officials and officers, did not like your criticisms of them contained in your postings on an internet blog?

How would you feel if, said Municipal Government, and its' officials, managed to convince municipal council to sue you for alleged “defamation” with the use of taxpayer's dollars?

This is not George Orwell's 1984 – this is actually Quebec, 2008 where just such a proceeding was undertaken with taxpayer's money in the small community of Rawdon, Quebec.

At this point, alarm bells should be going off:

How can a Government sue for “defamation” (and pay for it with taxpayers dollars) ?

Isn't this a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (a SLAPP)? Doesn't Quebec have legislation, the Anti-SLAPP law (Bill 9 – in force, June 4, 2009) which should be able to prevent this?

These precise issues are presently before the Quebec Court of Appeal in Leblanc et als. v. Municipality of Rawdon et als.. following the granting of an interlocutory injunction by a Quebec Superior Court judge ordering all Defendants to the “defamation” lawsuits not to “defame” the Government, nor its' Mayor or Director-General pending the hearing of the lawsuit.

As you might imagine, this case is of considerable importance not only for freedom of expression but also for a healthy, functioning democracy in the Province of Quebec.

This appeal has drawn both daily newspapers. La Presse and The Gazette, as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) as interveners in the matter. The CCLA, has sought to intervene before the Quebec Court of Appeal for the first time in its' four decade history given the issues at stake, and its written submissions can be seen at:

http://ccla.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Memoire-Rawdon-v-Leblance-appel-CCLA-FINAL.pdf

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C.A.G.E., and all freedom-loving individuals, should be greatly worried about any legal judgment or administrative decision that leans towards allowing politicians and civil servants to use public funds in order to sue private individuals who have criticized them. C.A.G.E. will be closely following the progress of this case.

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