New Brunswick

N.B. environmentalists want more legal protection

Environmental activists in New Brunswick are asking the government to step up protection for protesters.

Environmental activists in New Brunswick are asking the government to step up protection for protesters.

Gordon Dalzell, a clean air activist, said he wants to see so-called anti-SLAPP legislation passed.

The law would ban what activists call Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — or SLAPP.

Dalzell said with contentious projects in the province such as shale gas exploration, critics need protection from legal actions designed to intimidate and silence.

"We definitely need it now because it's only a matter of time before some of these big proponents, who don't like the message of environmental ruination which some of these projects result in, want to shut down those who speak against these projects," he said.

There was no suggestion any "SLAPP" lawsuits had been launched in connection with the anti-fracking protests. 

Follow Quebec's example

Quebec is the only province with anti-SLAPP legislation. It introduced it in 2009.

Andre Belisle, president of the Association Quebecoise de lutte contre la pollution atmospherique, urged his New Brunswick counterparts to lobby for the legislation.

He said environmental groups are sometimes hit with SLAPP suits from companies wealthy enough to use the legal actions to silence critics for years.

Belisle said it took two years to get the Quebec government to ban the practice.

"You really have to be working very hard and it will take you know probably a few years, but then you know, just stand up and defend your rights," he said.

New Brunswick’s Department of Justice said no such legislation is currently being contemplated.

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