Resolute’s lawsuit for $7 million aims to silence criticism

Feature story - June 20, 2013
Greenpeace Canada promised today that it would not be silenced by a $7 million defamation lawsuit by the country’s largest logging company, Resolute Forest Products (TSX: RFP).

Backed by a growing number of social justice, freedom of speech and environmental organizations from both sides of the border critical of Resolute’s lawsuit, Greenpeace characterized the lawsuit filed on 23 May as a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). A SLAPP seeks to intimidate and silence civil society groups by burdening them with mounting legal costs associated with a legal defense.

“This is an attempt by a multinational, multibillion dollar corporation to quash public discussion about, and comment upon, its operations in Canada’s ‘Endangered Forests,’ ” said Richard Brooks, Forest campaign coordinator with Greenpeace Canada. “Resolute’s lawsuit is a bullying tactic meant to gag its critics, but we will vigorously defend ourselves. We will not be silenced.”

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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.

We will not be silenced. Example, in 2012 Greenpeace Canada join 250,000 Québecois in Montreal to protest rapid resource extraction and unsustainable development in Northern Quebec.

 

Free speech and robust advocacy on matters of clear public interest are fundamental rights in a democratic society. Environmental organizations, Indigenous peoples and civil society must be free to contribute to public debate without fear of outrageous lawsuits and other intimidation tactics.

“At a time when many companies are embracing social responsibility and sustainability as part of doing business, it is deeply regrettable that Resolute is turning to the courts rather than dealing with the very real threats to the forest being caused by its operations,” said Brooks. “This lawsuit risks a chilling effect on public debate of Canada’s forest and other matters of clear public interest.”

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Greenpeace notes that in Quebec, where Resolute is headquartered and primarily operates, its 2009 anti-SLAPP legislation would have likely prevented this type of suit from being successful.

“The success of anti-SLAPP law in Quebec should inspire the Ontario government to quickly pass into law strong legislation to prevent multinationals like Resolute from using this attack against freedom of speech,” said André Belisle, President of L'Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique and former SLAPP victim.

“Once again we see a company using the courts to silence an organization who does valuable work to defend our forests and our right to information,” concluded Élodie Comtois from Éditions Écosociété and a SLAPP victim. “Ontario should urgently implement anti-SLAPP legislation in order to protect freedom of expression for organizations and citizens on matters of public interest.”

The Montagnes Blanches “Endangered Forest.” One of the five “Endangered Forests” identified for protection by Greenpeace.

 

Greenpeace recently revealed that Resolute has breached more forestry laws and regulations in Quebec than any other company over the past decade, accumulating over $1.2 million in fines. The organizations says it will to continue to inform Canadian on what is happening in the public forests of Quebec and Ontario, and promote sustainable and healthy ecosystems and communities.

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.

We will not be silenced.

Organizations supporting Greenpeace include: Alternatives, Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA),Centre Québécois du droit de l’environnement, Éditions Écosociété, Ligue des Droits et Libertés, Nature Québec, Réseau Québécois des Groupes Écologistes (RQGE) and Rainforest Action Network.

Read more about Resolute and “Endangered Forests”

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