On 23 May, 2013 the country’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products (TSX: RFP) filed a $7 million lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court against Greenpeace Canada and two of its staff. We believe the lawsuit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). A SLAPP seeks to intimidate and silence civil society groups by burdening them with mounting legal costs associated with a legal defense.
We believe that Resolute is attempting to quash public discussion about, and comment upon, its operations in Canada’s "Endangered Forests." SLAPPs are a typical bullying tactic meant to gag critics and divert attention from important issues: in this case, Greenpeace's criticism that Resolute is logging in "Endangered Forests" and habitat of threatened caribou herds, is disregarding First Nations rights and their request for free, prior and informed consent, has repeatedly violated forestry regulations and made false sustainability claims.
What’s Resolute accusing Greenpeace of?
In essence, Resolute claims that we acted unlawfully in communicating information about their logging operations and products to their customers and the general public. For that, they are asking for seven million bucks. The way we see it, this is a company that would rather pick a legal fight than talk about what’s happening in the forest. That’s irresponsible and it brings us no closer to lasting sustainable solutions and conservations.
Who’s named in the lawsuit?
Greenpeace Canada and two of its staff – Richard Brooks, Greenpeace’s forest campaign coordinator and Shane Moffatt, one of its forest campaigners. The fact that they have named not only Greenpeace but campaigners as well, confirms our view that Resolute's key goal is to intimidate us. But it won’t work.
What’s the timing of this lawsuit?
Facing increased scrutiny and criticism from a range of environmentalists and First Nations over their logging operations, Resolute filed the lawsuit just two days after seven environmental organizations severed discussions with the company under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. A week earlier on 15 May, the Grand Council of the Crees also filed an international appeal to one of Resolute’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificates in Quebec. Greenpeace had just released a new report challenging many of Resolute’s sustainability claims – The Resolute False Promises: The Unsustainability Report
Why was the lawsuit filed in Ontario?
The company is headquartered in Quebec and the majority of its paper and lumber mills and logging operations are in that province. Despite this, the lawsuit was filed in Ontario court. Currently, unlike Quebec, Ontario does not have anti-SLAPP legislation in place. Quebec’s anti-SLAPP legislation would likely have prevented this type of lawsuit from successfully going forward. The Ontario government, though, has introduced Bill 83 that would protect public participation and advocacy in the province.
How is this issue about more than just destructive logging in the Boreal Forest?
Free speech and robust advocacy on matters of clear public interest are fundamental rights in a democratic society. Environmental organizations, Indigenous peoples, civil society and individuals must be free to contribute to public debate without fear of outrageous lawsuits and other intimidation tactics. This lawsuit is about the chilling effect on public debate about the future of Canadian forests and other matters of clear public interest. We are fighting for you and your right to freely express your concern about any company’s operations, without fear of a lawsuit or legal threats.
Who’s concerned about these types of lawsuits by corporations?
More than 150 groups have signed a letter denouncing any attempt by corporations to bring abusive lawsuits with the aim of limiting freedom of expression, as well as environmental and other forms of advocacy. The groups can be viewed here.
What should Resolute being doing?
What Resolute needs to do is suspend operations in “Endangered Forests” and work collaboratively with Greenpeace and others to complete conservation and protected areas plans based on independent science. We can create solutions that ensure wood goes to mills and supports healthy communities while protecting key areas of forest and wildlife habitat. We have done it elsewhere. We can do it here. [And they should drop the lawsuit, too.]
Read more about Resolute’s record and “Endangered Forests”
How can I help?
We need your donations to fight this bullying tactic - with your help, we will not be silenced!
And find out how you can play a major role in protecting Canada’s Boreal Forest.