Town of Amherstburg Joined The ‘Banned’ Wagon

The Town of Amherstburg may have set a precedent in its own community when it banned Graham Hobbs from all municipal facilities, but it isn’t the first municipality to issue a ban that judges have ruled unconstitutional.

June 2006 Russell Township banned a persistent council critic.
Jacques Aube, 75, attended Russell Township municipal meetings about four times a month. He was notified last November he was barred from the municipal offices after he asked the township clerk a number of pointed questions about a Ministry of the Environment report on the township’s master plan during an October council meeting.

March 2009 Windsor Edy Haddad
Three years after being banned from city hall and other municipal offices, political and social activist Edy Haddad is now welcome to return. Windsor activist Edy Haddad allowed back at city hall

February 2010 Petrolia Trespass ban partly lifted

February 2012 Niagara Falls council bans resident from City Hall Fred Bracken
In an unprecedented move, Niagara Falls council has gone behind close doors to ban a former city employee from attending meetings.

July 2012 Windsor A leader of last year’s Occupy Windsor movement and outspoken critic of disgraced Coun. Al Maghnieh is no longer banned from city hall.

May 2013 Critics decry “draconian” measures in proposed Windsor no-trespass policy
Cross said the city has still not explained why her client Robert Mittag was banned from municipal property last summer after being ejected while protesting outside city hall. It was the no-trespass order against Mittag that triggered work on the new policy which council will be asked to adopt next week.

November 2013 Town urged to lift Gammie ban by CCLA

October 2014 now elected to council.

December 2014 Judge finds resolutions “violated” Gammie’s rights.

June 2015 Owen Sound Gammie insists town legal costs aren’t his fault.

August 2015 McNab-Braeside Township resident faces lifetime ban from municipal properties

Oshawa ban – Civil liberties organization upset with City.

November 2015 Niagara Region Fred Bracken A one-year trespass notice that barred a Fort Erie man from attending regional council meetings violated his Charter rights, a judge has ruled.

November 2015 – Graham Hobbs banned from Amherstburg town hall and all municipal facilities for one year.

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Resident Is Suing the Town of Amherstburg

CKLW AM 800 News reports today that Graham Hobbs is “suing for $100,000 after the town banned him from all town facilities.” A statement of claim says the actions of the town were “oppressive, arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

Amherstburg CAO, John Miceli, says the town has filed its ‘Statement of Defence’ and is prepared to defend the allegations.

Ontario Passes Law to Protect Freedom of Expression

Province Works to End Strategic Lawsuits That Stifle Free Speech

Press Release

October 28, 2015 12:00 P.M.

Ministry of the Attorney General

Today Ontario passed an act that protects freedom of speech on matters of public interest.

The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 will allow the public to participate more freely in public discussions without fear of retribution by giving them a better way to defend themselves against strategic lawsuits, commonly known as SLAPPs (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). The threat of a strategic lawsuit, which can be lengthy and expensive, is often used as a means to intimidate or punish opponents and discourage others from speaking out.

The new act, which will become law in Ontario upon Royal Assent, contains a number of elements that will reduce the risk of citizens being threatened with legal action when speaking out on matters of public interest, including:

  • A new fast-track review process that will allow the courts to quickly identify and deal with strategic lawsuits
  • New protections for individuals from defamation lawsuits when their concerns are reported to the public through a third party, such as a blogger or a reporter
  • Faster and less expensive procedures at boards and tribunals that will allow parties to make written submissions about legal costs instead of making submissions in person.

Improving access to justice supports the province’s strategy to build Better Justice Together, a commitment to make the justice system simpler, faster and less expensive for all Ontarians, and is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic and innovative environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Quick Facts

  • The majority of strategic lawsuits are filed in court as claims of defamation (libel or slander), have little or no merit, and are often dropped before proceeding to trial.
  • The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 is based on extensive stakeholder consultations and the consensus recommendations of an expert advisory panel to provide a faster, more efficient process to address strategic lawsuits and provide greater clarity for the parties involved.

Background Information

Quotes

Madeleine Meilleur

“I am pleased to see our government play a leading role in ending litigation that stifles free speech. This law embodies the values of justice, fairness and equality—all hallmarks of our great nation—by allowing citizens to speak out on public issues without fear of retribution.”

Madeleine Meilleur

Attorney General

“The Ontario Bar Association applauds the Ontario government for passing the Protection for Public Participation Act. The act will ensure that individuals with legitimate lawsuits can carry them forward and that lawsuits aimed at silencing legitimate democratic debate can be disposed of more quickly and easily by the courts. The act further encourages public participation and democratic speech by removing significant barriers to dismissing lawsuits brought about by improper motives. The OBA has called for such legislation and is pleased to see it pass.”

David Sterns

Ontario Bar Association, 1st Vice-President and member of the OBA Anti-SLAPP working group