In Canada, Barrick is using SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation) against three academics and two small presses, one in Quebec and one based in Vancouver, that have published or announced an intention to publish books that damage Barrick’s image. The latest SLAPP was directed at Talonbooks of Vancouver, before the book was even published.
These lawsuits take advantage of an archaic defamation law within Canada that allow a company to sue entities for merely doing damage to their reputation. The law allows lawsuits if a company is able to make a claim of reputational damage, leaving it to the defendant to prove that what they alleged was true. This effectively creates a “libel chill” preventing anyone from saying anything negative about powerful corporations, lest they end up with a costly lawsuit that they then must fight.
According to Dan Burnett of Owen Bird Law Corporation, Canada stands out in the world for having particularly unfair defamation laws, which are rooted in 16th and 17th century criminal statutes protecting nobility from criticism. He writes in The Lawyers Weekly, “in the past dozen years or so, the highest courts in England, Australia and New Zealand have all recognized that the traditional law of libel fails to adequately protect free speech, and they have all issued decisions which begin to right the balance. Every one, that is, except Canada.”
See the Free Speech at Risk campaign for more information!
A SLAPP in the Face: Reaping Abroad, Sowing Shut Mouths At Home, April 21, 2009
by DELPHINE ABADIE, ALAIN DENEAULT, and WILLIAM SACHER