Via libelchill.ca, a good piece on CBC’s The National about the issue of Canada’s libel laws and the chilling effect their abuse by plaintiffs is having on legitimate political speech, with a particular focus on blogs. The piece features the story of Kate Holloway, a neighbour of mine here at the Centre for Social Innovation. Kate was formerly a Green Party activist, works with Green Enterprise Toronto, CarbonZero and now Liberal Party candidate for Provincial parliament in Trinity-Spadina.
A recent example of this chilling effect when netneutrality.ca, an activist site arguing for Internet network neutrality principles to be protected in Canada, was taken down after the site’s owner Kevin McArthur was targeted by an undisclosed plaintiff. For a couple of months, the site languished and the dialogue about this important issue was stifled as a new home was sought for the site. It was only brought back to life when Michael Geist took it over and was prepared to defend it. However, there has been no real activity since, and its founding voice appears lost.
These suits are known as SLAPPs, “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”. California has enacted an anti-SLAPP statute to offer defendants an early option to strike the complaint on free speech grounds.
Not every issue has a law professor willing to step into the fray and draw the fire. Legitimate public discourse and a vibrant democracy requires the freedom to express opinions, and Canada’s democracy is endangered by anything that threatens speech. Canada needs more free speech and a more engaged electorate able to find its voice and embrace new forms of expression like the web.
I encourage you to learn more about the state of libel law in Canada, it’s chilling effect on political speech and the impact to the Canadian blogosphere. Check out LIBELCHILL.ca.