Free Speech Not Free Slander – OFIA

Bill 83- A solution in search of a problem according to OFIA President Jamie Lim
Bill 83- A solution in search of a problem according to OFIA President Jamie Lim
Bill 83- A solution in search of a problem according to OFIA President Jamie Lim
Bill 83- A solution in search of a problem according to OFIA President Jamie Lim

THUNDER BAY –“Bill 83 is a solution in search of a problem,” states Jamie Lim from the Ontario Forest Industries Association. “The politicians like to say Bill 83 is protecting the ‘small guy’ against frivolous lawsuits. It isn’t about that at all”.

The OFIA President says that the Ontario Government brought this legislation out last fall. However that the Supreme Court of Canada has already set the bar in this issue. Ontario’s proposed legislation, according to Lim can “Already be dealt with by current legislation”.

Free Speech is a fundamental right. That is being fully respected by The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), and the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA). However all of the organizations are expressing concern over Bill 83, The Protection of Public Participation Act, 2014 and its potential impacts to Ontario’s sustainable forestry sector.

The three groups are saying that provisions of the proposed legislation could open the door to protect false statements, or slander.

The OFIA says, “Forestry employs 150,000 people in this province. The Forest sector has overcome enormous challenges and now in 2014 is showing positive signs of rebound. This is not the time to allow radical special interest groups a shield to hide behind as they spread false information about the job creators in Ontario”.

The proposed legislation is being tagged by the OFIA as a “job killer” and an appeasement to Southern Ontario Environmental Groups to attack and shut down northern jobs.

In a media statement, the OFIA says, “Ontario Nature released an action alert entitled –Your Right to Speak up for a Healthy Environment is in Jeopardy. Ontario Nature and others are fear mongering – they are creating a crisis where none exists. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario is a world leader in sustainable forestry and is committed to balancing environmental protection with sustainable forest management”.

David Canfield, Mayor of Kenora, and President of NOMA stated, “There is no clear evidence that legitimate expression is being impaired in this province. Our current justice system provides ample protection to individuals expressing legitimate freedom of speech as well as to individuals and companies who rely on the law to protect their reputations against slander.”

“A recent Supreme Court ruling proves that lawsuits cannot be used to suppress legitimate expressions”.

“There is no need for Bill 83. There is however, evidence of Greenpeace previously misleading the public and making false claims against a forestry company operating in Ontario. It is not surprising that Greenpeace also strongly supports this bill.

Alan Spacek, Mayor of Kapuskasing and President of FONOM said, “We believe that this legislation will create a climate in which radical activist groups can make false claims about a range of industries on which our communities depend upon, while enjoying protection from any legal opposition.”

Jamie Lim, President and CEO of the OFIA commented, “The OFIA will always support freedom of speech. We do not, however, support freedom to slander with no accountability. Forestry, a renewable resource, is an important aspect of Northern and rural Ontario and we must stand up to protect green jobs. Bill 83 threatens the livelihood of hardworking Ontarians.”

If you care about healthy communities and Ontario’s economy, here is your call to action. The most effective action you could take would be to phone or write to your MPP to let them know that this issue matters to you.

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