Northern Ontario and First Nations leaders are in Toronto this week speaking out against Bill C-52. Cochrane’s Mayor Peter Politis, Hearst’s Mayor Roger Sigouin and representatives from NEOMA and FONOM are asking for some changes. Timmins City Councillor and President of NEOMA, Mike Doody, will also be at the meeting.

They say the way the bill is worded now, it would exempt well-funded activist groups from defamation. That could threaten all forestry and mining in the north. Cochrane’s Mayor Peter Politis says the bill could give the organizations more legal teeth. It will be discussed at Queen’s Park on Thursday, with a presentation from FONOM.

The changes the groups are asking for:

  • Legal action resulting from public participation would need to be reviewed by a judicial officer or other provincially appointed expert, prior to being filed to ensure that no one is forced to defend themselves against a baseless charge that amounts to a SLAPP suit in the first place;
  • Target the bill specifically to apply to volunteers and small community organizations with annual budgets of less than $100,000, and who have no pecuniary affiliation or tie to larger groups or organizations.
  • The “public interest” test in section 137.1(4), which allows legitimate lawsuits to be extinguished, should be removed and replaced with a “bad faith” based test, such that only lawsuits brought in bad faith can be extinguished.