Bill 52 does NOT protect those faced with SLAPP suits‏, such as NextEra’s

IMG_0467Our fight for freedom of speech is ongoing it seems. The anti SLAPP Bill was touted as a wonderful thing in the media in December, but they only read the government press release, not the (altered) fine print of the Bill.  ~ Esther

Dear Members of Legislature,
The anti-SLAPP Bill 52 is not the same creature that was previously proposed as Bill 83 a year ago. In short, every person or organization that you all passionately spoke for, who were facing SLAPP suits, willnotbe protected by the new Bill 52. There was a change in the wording about who would now be eligible for protection by this Bill.  Before, that date was to be left open to the discretion of the Lieutenant Governor.  In the current version as Bill 52, the effective date is the day it receives Royal Assent. So basically because we (those facing SLAPP suits) weren’t sued on a current enough date, we do not ‘qualify’ for this Bill’s protection.

Nexterror Bullies Canada IncI don’t believe I was being naïve in thinking that this legislation should have helped ALL affected by SLAPP suits.  On June 26th, 2013, shortly after I was sued by Florida based wind turbine developer NextEra Energy, the Attorney General John Gerretson wrote my MPP Monte McNaughton this: “I can tell you that if Bill 83 is passed, the rule will apply to suits brought before the bill comes into force, thus allowing for dismissal of strategic litigation after a fast-track motion procedure.” But this is precisely what was changed in Bill 52 – I suppose it seemed only fair to Mr. Gerretson to extend the protection to all victims of SLAPPs, but then… something changed with the last election, and we were all swiftly abandoned.

If this seems like small potatoes, like a few SLAPP suits are no big deal – I’d argue that assumption straight up and down. It’s akin to saying the elimination of a voice, a satirical voice, yes such as cartoonists, is no loss for freedom of expression. It is. Not only does “lawfare” frighten those who speak out with a strong voice, it terrifies those with weaker voices into not having a voice at all.

Some examples of what I have witnessed in the two years I’ve been under the cloud of a SLAPP suit are:

·     Suppression of Media: I had a reporter, who eventually wrote a story on the NextEra lawsuit for a large newspaper in Ontario, interview me by phone. He seemed to be very careful in what he asked, almost frightened, which at the time I couldn’t understand. He asked if my video of NextEra destroying the bald eagle nest was public, if it was safe to share.  I told him it was publicly available on YouTube. What he was concerned about was writing or linking to something that could get him sued as well – I was shocked. In the end the video link was not published in his article. It was clear to me that the lawsuit prevented the press from feeling comfortable to report on the full story. If there had not been a SLAPP suit he would have readily posted the link to the eagle nest takedown video.

·     Stifled Communication: A SLAPP suit makes the person sued a ‘liability’ to communicate with. People were cautious as to what they said to me over the phone or in e-mails – one neighbor wouldn’t even say the word ‘lawsuit’ to me on the phone.  Perhaps irrational reactions, but this is the knee jerk response people had – they didn’t want to be taken down by this corporation – they fully supported me but were frightened that the same could happen to anyone who spoke ill of this company. It was frustrating for me as it hampered the frank discussions I would have with people – NextEra had yet again succeeded in their local ‘terror’ tactics, frightening opposition into silence.

·     Tense relationships: My son came home from elementary school one day and told me a boy on the bus said, “your mom is an idiot for getting sued”. Because everyone who gets sued is guilty, a corporation couldn’t be in the wrong, could it? I felt terrible for him, having to defend my right to speak for the community, which was now in tatters from all the wind company cement trucks and blades moving in (over 200 turbines went up in Lambton-Middlesex last year). But you can see how being associated with a person who is sued is damaging.

·     Repressed voices: Ontario-Wind-Resistance.org still has a perfectly legit satirical image of NextEra on it, but it is now hosted in Iceland where Freedom of Expression is practiced and protected with legislation.  Since there is a lawsuit connected to the “NexTerror” image it is not a site that I feel comfortable handing over to another individual to operate – it just wouldn’t be right to drag another person into this revolting mess. So the lawsuit has also restricted others from becoming directly involved for fear they would be attacked with lawfare.

And I’ve moved. Out of the province to small town New Brunswick. Did the lawsuit force me to move? Yes, partly. Did NextEra, Suncor, WPD and the Ontario government force me to move? Absolutely. I never in my life dreamed of moving from the home and farm I was raised on.  Fighting with every bone in me for the last 6 years was hard enough, without a lawsuit piled on top of it. NextEra knew exactly what it was doing. A huge corporation pretended to play victim in their Statement of Claim –they’ve been anything but a victim. The lawsuit is to be two years old in a few months, and I haven’t heard form NextEra in over a year. They like where they sit right now: me handicapped with a pending lawsuit, and they  can continue to operate business as usual. No skin off their back.

With the change in the wording of Bill 52 I will continue to sit in SLAPP suit limbo for years and years to come, denied simple protection from the Ontario government unless the Bill is amended to cover ALL affected persons, not just those who will be sued ‘later’.

I ask that members of legislature review Bill 52 with this in mind, knowing that there are many others who are in the same abandoned predicament and look to you to make the changes to this Bill so that it is fair, accessible and just for everyone.

Yours truly,

Esther Wrightman
St. Andrews, NB

22 thoughts on “Bill 52 does NOT protect those faced with SLAPP suits‏, such as NextEra’s

  1. Who is getting sued? A corporate registered name (name u think u own) owned by the city of LONDON sq. mile. They own it. All has to with the name your parents gave away and they deceived us without full disclosure.
    You see the tricks they play with these bills to protect larger more profitable corporations.
    All fictions and so are the bills. Send the bill to City of London the LORD MAYOR.

  2. So sorry to hear that Esther (and her family) can’t put this injustice behind and move on! I am ashamed to be an Ontarian.

  3. To be placed under the category of intimidation?

    The event of removing that eagle’s nest took place in public view so there were a number of witnesses present.

    So can be discussed by people if they want to discuss this event.

    Photos/videos of events that take place in public are just that. Public information.

    The sign that someone placed on an IWT could be seen by anyone passing by. So is/was in clear view of the public.

  4. A really well-written letter, Esther. We’ll harass them about this at the final CLC meeting in April.
    Just so you won’t feel lonely, I still have the ‘NexTERROR vs Esther on the front of the store.
    I mention this un case they hadn’t noticed it. lmao.
    I suspect they are reluctant to unleash the kind of backlash they would get if they actually proceeded with that case. I think we could raise the biggest demonstration we’ve ever done.
    Typical bullying tactics – and typically cowardly when they find their opponent doesn’t do ‘victim’.
    A huge middle finger to Derek, Tom and the misses lol, Lewis Hay in Florida, and all the scum floating in between them.

  5. Since there is public knowledge about Esther’s situation, the public may discuss this as well. Esther made this public so is in the public domain.

    Either party can make it known that there is legal action pending.

    • The low returns were the combined result of very high management fees, commissions, bad management and poor exits.

      High management fees and commissions are ways to “milk” any fund which then results in loses to investors.

      Churning is another way of “milking” a fund. Keep buying and then selling securities which then results in higher management fees due to trading commissions charged to investors.

      Poor exits could involve selling bad investments at a loss.

      They are a bad idea which cost taxpayers a bundle.

      Also can have political insider investments involved. Can break a union pension fund.

      Lots more can be said by experts about this idea.

  6. Speaking of terrorists…..

    ‘[excerpt] Lawyer Julian Falconer, who represents the families, called the wind companies “blood-sucking, intimidating bullies.”

    “It’s not just a bar to justice, it’s actually a terror tactic,” Falconer said in an interview.

    “This is not about money. The idea is to send a message: ‘We will wipe you out if you challenge us’.”

    The companies say the high-stakes court challenge forced them to deploy considerable legal resources to defend projects they say are safe.

    “While the appellants were entitled to bring their litigation, their decision to do so had significant consequences,” St. Columban argues in its court filing.

    “There must be an appreciation of the real disruption, and real cost, suffered by the adverse party.”’

    “Ontario families fighting massive legal bill from wind-farm companies”
    Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-families-fight-massive-legal-bill-from-wind-farm-companies/article23238169/

    • Interesting comments on the Globe & Mail webpage. Here are the first 5:

      *********************************
      “L Warmwater
      It is normal in any province in Canada that if one loses a lawsuit then the costs go to the losers. Many people (and corporations) are taken to court on a regular basis (frivilous suits are dismissed) and court costs and lawyers bills on both sides are normally paid by those losing the suit. People need to think twice before launching suits that have little chance of success. Pay your bills people.”

      *********************************
      “Kate in Calgary
      This is standard operating procedure across Canada. Litigation is meant to be a last resort and costs are meant as a deterrent to litigants whose cases might be weak or brought forward in bad faith. Presumably, the losers in this case had this explained to them by their lawyer(s) and they were conscious of the risks inherent in proceeding to Court. Now they are whining “its not fair” blah blah blah “denial of access to justice”. Whatever.”

      *********************************
      “OldBanister 3 hours ago
      “Lawyer Julian Falconer, who represents the families, called the wind companies “blood-sucking, intimidating bullies.”

      “It’s not just a bar to justice, it’s actually a terror tactic,” Falconer said in an interview.

      “This is not about money. The idea is to send a message: ‘We will wipe you out if you challenge us.’”

      – – –
      I have a lot of respect for Julian Falconer.

      Be that as it may, counsel would have to have advised the client that in Ontario, generally speaking, costs follow the cause. They chose to sue. They did not prevail. They now face costs.

      It is true that litigation has been used as a terror tactic – SLAPP suits are notorious, and usually used pre-emptively by polluters to intimidate lawful public protest.

      That isn’t what has happened here, though.

      Here, the wind farm companies have been besieged over and over, in location after location, by extremely sophisticated propaganda campaigns. Those campaigns do not originate with individual landowners in the areas in question. The campaigns have no basis in objective science. They exist merely to obstruct the progress of non-fossil fuel energy generation.

      The people behind those deeply deceitful and dishonest campaigns have very deep pockets.

      Having led these (perhaps gullible?) families down a garden path of propaganda, those same lobby groups are now going to hang them out to dry when the bill comes in.

      There are some blood-sucking intimidating bullies, certainly.

      But it isn’t the wind farm developers who are the villains in this story.”

      *********************************
      “Eternal.Optimist
      K2, which is putting up 140 turbines, some of which are about 750 metres from the Drennans’ home near Goderich, Ont

      C’mon. three quarters of a kilometer away and the family expected to win?”

      **********************************
      “Little Dickie
      To my knowledge, the land is not expropriated by the Provincial Government. It is a land rental transaction between the land owner “farmer” and the turbine company for space, and access roads to the turbines. To a farmer, this is income. The turbine company also pays realty taxes its industrial sites, and fixtures to the local community. The farmer likes it, the local government likes it. There is a bunch of wind turbines outside of Port Dover where I live, and I don’t find them intrusive.”

      • IWT companies pay rent to landowners for IWTs and that rent is tax deductible for the companies. If these IWT companies own real property then the property taxes they pay are deductible as income tax business expenses.

        With all of the tax breaks these IWT companies get they can end up paying no income taxes.

        But this information can only be found for publicly traded companies where this information is required to be disclosed.

        Landowners that host IWTs pay the real estate property taxes for the IWTs. And as rental property landowners they can use this as an income tax deduction.

    • Here are the next 6 comments on the Globe & Mail webpage:

      ***********************************
      “Lines are lovely
      People like these families are watching too many legal shows on TV where the “little guys” win.

      These health impact claims have a string of losses across North America, so it was a foolish lawyer advising even more foolish clients who even launched this case.”

      ************************************
      “jdwilson
      Their lawyer gave them incredibly bad legal advice. I am sure he got his retainer and most of his bill paid..

      Judgement against costs.. They must have known that before they tried fancy legal manoevering”

      *************************************
      “dagn38
      The judgement should read: NIMBYs go away. I applaud the ruling and think that the consequences of their actions were known in advance. Pay up and stop using the court as a soapbox for your quackery.”

      *************************************
      “Habeas Corpus1

      This is the end result of a frivolous legal action based on Jenny McCarthy like science.”

      **************************************
      “Heliosset
      These families think rules apply to everyone but them.”

      **************************************
      “allvodi
      When one looks at the number of installations worldwide and the number near towns (the Eu is an excellent example) and the number of years they’ve been in operation we should have a rather large number of individuals with serious enough symptoms to validate the results that this law suit was seeking to confirm. Where are they?”

      • One comment by a person who doesn’t even know that at least some of these projects don’t pay taxes. No full data available on this issue.

        Sure they pay local real estate taxes but those are written off from their federal taxes. And they have enough accrued tax benefits to cover profits or pass through to investors.

      • The person who made one comment about IWTs paying taxes doesn’t even know what the tax issues are that are involved in IWTs.

    • Here are the next 4 comments on the Globe & Mail webpage:

      ************************************
      “The Last Truthbender 4 hours ago
      they drank the kool aid and now must pay the price”

      ************************************
      “Wade22
      How come there are no “reply” options available today?”

      ************************************
      “Peter Dawson
      Not a lot of sympathy from me here. There is no evidence – zero – that wind turbines are a public health issue. That was true before these people went to court and it’s equally true now.”

      ************************************
      “Andrew Smith
      If Julian Falconer feels so strongly that his clients were intimidated by “blood sucking bullies” then perhaps he can assist them by waiving his legal fees so that his clients can help pay their bills. Anyone want to speculate on the chances of that happening?”

  7. Thanks for posting these comments! This is what rural Ontarians are up against.

    More than just IWT issues will need to be dealt with in Ontario in the future.

  8. “Being followed? Call 911 before using Facebook: councillor”
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/being-followed-call-911-before-using-facebook-councillor-1.2978985
    Posted: Mar 02, 2015

    ‘[excerpt] A series of disturbing incidents reported on Facebook that do not appear to have been reported to police prompted Ottawa City Councillor Jody Mitic to plan a community safety information session, he told CBC News.

    “The one that really set off my alarm bells was a story about a woman who was followed home from her bus stop by a guy who was very aggressive and got in her face. Reading it I was getting nervous for her,” Mitic said. “I was waiting for the part that said, ‘Then I dialed 911,’ or ‘Then I slammed my front door and called 911,’ or something. And that never happened.” […]

    “I love that people talk on Facebook and Twitter, and tell their neighbours,” Mitic said. “But if you actually feel like your safety or your security or that of your neighbours is in danger or in question, there’s nothing wrong with calling the police and just giving them a head’s up.”‘

  9. Rural Ontario vs Citiots: we are in the eleventh hour. Toronto needs to separate from Ontario. Get your food and your tax money elsewhere. Keep your garbage, and stay out of rural Ontario. TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED

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