This case is the first reported use of the Protection of Public Participation Act in BC( Galloway v. A.B.,
2019 BCSC 1417 ). However, instead of dismissing the defamation lawsuit, or the application, the court ordered extensive disclosure and production.
The plaintiff sued for defamation alleging false allegations of rape, sexual assaults and physical assaults repeated on the internet. The issue on this application was whether the plaintiff is entitled to documentation before the Court decides on the merits of the application.
Importantly, the Protection of Public Participation Act is meant to enhance public participation in important public issues. This law applies to lawsuits commenced on or after May 15, 2018. Lawsuits meant to punish critics have come to be known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
Expressing the clear tension between defamation and protecting free speech on matters of public interest the judge had this to say,
 While I appreciate that the aim of the Act is to provide defendants in SLAPP actions a timely and expedient process to have unmeritorious actions dismissed, the flip side cannot be to deprive a plaintiff with a valid cause of action the ability to proceed. Section 4 places a burden on the plaintiff. An unusually onerous burden of proving not only that they have a case but that the defendants do not. To have to do that in a vacuum would be unjust and contrary to R. 21-1(4).
The court made extensive disclosure orders for all the applicants. The disclosure were to be made, “as soon as is practicable”.
This result does not bode well for many defendants of unfair lawsuits. Most cannot afford to pay the costs of extensive disclosure. This cost is often used to punish critics and stifle public participation. It may be that the force and purpose of the legislation will be lost by application of this section. The unique facts of this case may also prevent its use in more ubiquitous cases.