SLAPP

SLAPPs: A Burgeoning Practice Area

June 9, 2022

Supreme Court of Canada. Photo credit: Anthony Ho.

SLAPP* litigation is quickly becoming a practice area in its own right. All three of Canada’s largest provinces now have anti-SLAPP laws on the books. The most recent province to join this group is British Columbia, where in 2019 the Legislature unanimously voted to reinstate an anti-SLAPP law after its first legislative foray into the area (and Canada’s first anti-SLAPP law) was repealed soon after enactment in 2001.

The volume and variety of the litigation arising from these laws are impressive. Relatively few of the cases arise in the context of the archetypal Goliath vs. David showdowns that many understood such laws were designed to regulate. Many relate to statements made online on various social media platforms. To help offer some guidance on the meaning of the new Ontario legislation, the Court of Appeal adjudicated six of the early appeals arising under the law together. Two of the decisions in this group – 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association and Platnick v. Bent – later went on to the Supreme Court of Canada. Its decisions in Pointes and Platnick were handed down in 2020.

The SCC is now poised to hear another SLAPP appeal – Neufeld v. Hansman – the first case of its kind to interpret B.C.’s new anti-SLAPP law, which is closely modelled on its Ontario counterpart.

Tollefson Law has experience and history around the SLAPP issue going back to the early 1990s. In 1994, our Principal authored the first academic analysis of the SLAPP phenomenon in Canada and was closely involved in later efforts to design and implement legislative responses to the problem – both in his home province of B.C., and in Ontario. Recently, Tollefson Law represented a client in their efforts to secure dismissal of a defamation lawsuit arising in response to citizen advocacy for environmental protection issues. The background to and issues presented by the case have been covered in stories in the The Narwhal and The Tyee. The case was argued in February 2022, and the decision is currently on reserve at the B.C. Supreme Court.

Providing effective representation to clients in these kinds of cases is demanding and the stakes are high. If you believe you have been SLAPPed or are being threatened with a defamation lawsuit for speaking out on a matter of public interest, you should consult a lawyer with experience in this area. We would be happy to talk.

For further information on Tollefson Law’s past work, please refer to the Case Highlights in the Pacific Center for Environmental Law & Litigation (“CELL”) 2022 Special Edition Newsletter. CELL is a registered charity that operates alongside Tollefson Law to provide law students exposure to environmentally-focused litigation.

*Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation

Katrina Darychuk

Law Student

Katrina (she/her) is a J.D. candidate at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law with interests in criminal law, disability justice, and environmental litigation. Most recently, Katrina worked in Whitehorse, YK with the Public Prosecution Service and will clerk with the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2025.  

She holds a BA from University of Toronto in Critical Equity Studies and Ethics and a diploma in Theatre Arts from Langara College. Prior to law, Katrina worked as theatre director and creator across Canada. Her passions include gardening, thrifting, and walking her beloved dog Joe.

Patrick McDermott

Law Student

  • Santa Cruz Superior Court
  • California Attorney General’s Office, Land Use and Conservation Section

Patrick is a J.D. candidate at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law. He is passionate about public interest environmental law as well as criminal justice reform. Patrick has a B.A. from University of California, Davis, and has legal experience in both Canada and the United States. Upon graduation, he will be clerking at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver. In his spare time, he can be found backpacking, woodworking, baking, or running with his dog.

Lydia Young

Articled Student

  • 2022 Student mentor in the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation | educational program
  • Associate Fellow, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law
 
Lydia received her J.D. from the University of Victoria in 2023 with a concentration in environmental law and sustainability and will be called to the British Columbia Bar in 2024. Lydia is pursuing an 2024-25 LL.M. in Global Environment and Climate Change Law at the University of Edinburgh.
 
As an articling student at Tollefson Law, Lydia has gained experience working on environmental, constitutional and natural resource litigation and has sat at counsel table before the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal. Lydia is pursuing a career that focuses on biodiversity conservation, natural resource law, green economies and sustainable development.

Anthony Ho

Associate

  • Program Coordinator at the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation 
 
Anthony received his J.D. from the University of Victoria in 2014, and was called to the British Columbia bar in May 2015. His areas of practice in public interest environmental law have included environmental assessments, regulatory hearings, judicial reviews, and trials. 
 
He has appeared before the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, the BC Supreme Court, and various tribunals including the National Energy Board and BC Environmental Appeal Board. 
 
In his capacity as Program Coordinator at the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), he helps deliver CELL’s educational program, which trains law students in litigation practice skills through exposure to real-life pieces of public interest environmental litigation.
 
He also holds a Master of Public Administration (UVic ’14), a B.Sc. in environmental sciences (UBC ’10), and a B.A. in political science (UBC ’10). He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Law and Society at UVic.

Chris Tollefson

Principal

  • Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
  • Founding Executive Director of CELL – Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation
  • Past President of Ecojustice
 
Chris is the founding principal of Tollefson Law and a Professor of Law at the University of Victoria. He has degrees from Queen’s, University of Victoria and Osgoode Hall Law School, and clerked at the BC Court of Appeal.
 
Chris has appeared at all levels of trial and appeal court, and before various environmental regulatory boards and tribunals. He was counsel to BC Nature and Nature Canada during the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipeline hearing processes.


 
He has published on a diverse range of environmental and natural resource topics including forestry, contaminated sites, environmental governance and assessment, eco-certification, and access to justice. The fourth edition of his national environmental textbook (co-authored with Prof. Meinhard Doelle) was published by Thomson Reuters in 2023.
 
He loves the outdoors, late night pool games, early morning reno projects, and dog sitting.