Resolute CEO admits anti-SLAPP legislation would put case against Greenpeace “in grave peril”

Press release - September 15, 2017
Toronto (Ontario), 20 September 2017 -- An email obtained by Greenpeace through the Freedom of Information Act shows Richard Garneau, President and CEO of Resolute Forest Products, admitted that the logging giant’s lawsuit against Greenpeace Canada could be dismissed as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and that if the Ontario government’s proposed anti-SLAPP legislation was passed as originally written, it “would put our case in grave peril.”

Toronto (Ontario), 20 September 2017 -- An email obtained by Greenpeace through the Freedom of Information Act shows Richard Garneau, President and CEO of Resolute Forest Products, admitted that the logging giant’s lawsuit against Greenpeace Canada could be dismissed as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and that if the Ontario government’s proposed anti-SLAPP legislation was passed as originally written, it “would put our case in grave peril.”

In the e-mail Garneau states: “We need to fight to ensure that the ‘no retro-activity’ provision remains in place in the legislation […] the removal of this protection for our case would be outrageous, and would put our case in grave peril. We need to think about every lever available – to make sure Resolute’s law suit [sic] is not legislated out of existence.” [1] At the time, the Ontario legislature was debating the Protection of Public Participation Act, which now permits Ontario’s civil courts to dismiss ongoing lawsuits that impact a legitimate freedom of expression in the public interest. [2]

“We’ve received news that Resolute’s case against Greenpeace Canada is proceeding - but Garneau’s own legal analysis shows that this case shouldn’t even exist. If there had been anti-SLAPP legislation in Ontario at the time, we would not be here today as Resolute’s case against us would have been dismissed long ago,” says Shane Moffatt, Head of Greenpeace Canada’s Forest Campaign and defendant in the case. “Greenpeace has not been afforded important legislative protections, but we remain confident that Resolute’s legal attacks against us will ultimately fail.”

The final version of Ontario’s anti-SLAPP legislation ultimately closed the door on applying its protections to existing lawsuits, like the one against Greenpeace Canada, despite a written guarantee from then Attorney General John Gerretsen that the original bill would be available to such cases. Resolute, a forestry company, registered at least six lobbyists to oppose the proposed SLAPP legislation and its immediate application.

Despite being headquartered in Québec, Resolute filed its multimillion dollar lawsuit against Greenpeace in Ontario in 2013, thus avoiding anti-SLAPP protections then in force in Quebec but not in Ontario. At the time, Ontario did not yet have anti-SLAPP laws. Resolute would go on to launch a $400,000 lawsuit against the internationally respected Rainforest Alliance in Ontario in 2014 which successfully sealed an unfavourable audit from ever being released publically.

“Greenpeace will not let Resolute’s unlawful legal attacks stop us from speaking out to protect the boreal forest,” adds Moffatt.

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For media related queries: Loujain Kurdi, Communications Officer, <br> (+1 514.577.6657)

Notes to Editor:

[1] Richard Garneau’s full email, obtained through a Freedom of Information request is available here

[2] Changes made to the original bill eliminate potential application to lawsuits filed before the bill became law:

Original bill:

Application to commenced proceedings

For greater certainty, sections 137.1 to 137.4 apply in respect of proceedings commenced before the day section 2 of the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2013 came into force.

Final version:

Application

Section 137.5: Sections 137.1 to 137.4 apply in respect of proceedings commenced on or after the day the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014 received first reading.