Removing inefficiencies or destroying democracy?
In the Februrary 26, 2008 Toronto Star article (Democracy suffers under barrage of strategic lawsuits), Rick Smith and Devon Page talk about SLAPPs:
This type of litigation could be characterized as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPP”) as the phenomenon has been recognized by some legislators and judges in the United States and British Columbia. An action which effectively silences any and all criticism.
According to the SLAPP Resource Centre at the University of Colorado, a “SLAPP” is a civil complaint or counterclaim filed against individuals or organizations arising from their communications to government or speech on an issue of public interest or concern.
SLAPPs often are brought by corporations, real estate developers, government officials and others against individuals and community groups who oppose them on issues of public concern. SLAPP filers frequently use lawsuits based on ordinary civil claims as a means of transforming public debate into lawsuits.
While most SLAPPs lose in court, they succeed in the public arena. This is because defending a SLAPP, even when the legal defence is strong, requires a substantial investment of money, time and resources. The resulting effect is a “chill” on public participation in, and open debate on, important public issues. This chilling effect is not limited to the SLAPP target(s): fearful of being the target of future litigation, others refrain from speaking on, or participating in, issues of public concern.
In this case, the focus of interest seems to be the Innisfil District Association.