Date published: Monday, March 3, 2014
The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) is concerned that the passing of Bill 83 would protect and encourage groups intent on making baseless and false claims, and remove any recourse against this destructive activity.
With the Supreme Court ruling that lawsuits cannot be used to suppress legitimate expressions of dissent, there is no need for Bill 83. Individuals and organizations making legitimate claims are already protected against lawsuits designed to suppress free speech. This bill would give individuals and organizations with grievances the cover to launch fabricated and baseless attacks against companies they don’t like.
“We’ve watched Greenpeace launch attack after attack on Resolute Forest Products, making outrageous claims that were totally false,” said Al Spacek, Mayor of Kapuskasing and President of FONOM. “Greenpeace was forced to retract their false statements. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped them from making new allegations, and now the Ontario government is poised to give these groups free reign to expand their irresponsible activity.”
The past decade has been especially difficult for northern Ontario communities. Irresponsible threats against companies operating sustainably in the forestry sector have suppressed economic activity in the region. These attacks have created a hostile environment for responsible companies to conduct business, and have left residents and communities uncertain of the future.
FONOM supports public participation in debates, but believes Bill 83 goes too far in protecting irresponsible and inflammatory actions that genuinely hurt identifiable groups and organizations.
FONOM urges MPPs from all parties to reconsider their support for Bill 83 as it is currently written. Organizations intent on damaging responsible businesses should not be protected by legislation. Valid lawsuits should not be thrown out in favour of preserving public debate when that debate is rooted in fabrications.
“The law should not protect a lie,” said Spacek. “There should be no freedom to make false accusations. We support MPPs working to amend the bill to clearly differentiate between these activities and those that do genuinely contribute to public participation.”
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Mayor Al Spacek of Kapuskasing and President of FONOM