When will companies learn that suing campaigners won't silence us?

Posted by Richardg - 21 June 2013 at 11:22am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
The sun rises over the Boreal Forest, which is under threat from Resolute Forest Products

Resolute Forest Products, one of the most destructive logging companies in Canada, is suing my colleagues for $7 million. It thinks this will make them shut up about its destruction of Canada's Boreal Forest. It won't work - and I should know.

Canada's Boreal Forest, home to herds of endangered caribou, is under threat from Resolute, Canada's largest logging company. Greenpeace campaigners have been trying to get Resolute to put down its chainsaws while a conservation plan can be drawn up that protects this valuable and vulnerable forest.

Instead of talking to us, it launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit against our Canadian office, naming several campaigners personally.

Lawsuits like this are designed to silence campaigners who criticise companies. There's even a name for them: strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP. They are so notorious that Quebec, where Resolute is based, has banned SLAPP lawsuits - which is why the forest destroyer had to pop next door to Ontario and engage lawyers there.

It's ironic that Resolute is taking legal action, because it's showed nothing but disdain for the laws that protect forests. It has breached more forestry laws and regulations in Quebec than any other company over the past decade and has had to pay over $1.2 million in fines.

What companies don't realise - though they should have learned by now - is that suing your critics doesn't work.

Earlier this year, I was one of 21 people sued by the energy company EDF for £5 million. That lawsuit got us loads of media attention but EDF never got a penny. It was forced to back down and drop its claim for damages after people rushed to give their support.

That's exactly what is happening in Canada too.

Upon hearing about the lawsuit, all sorts of organisations have pledged their support, including Alternatives, Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique ,Centre Québécois du droit de l’environnement, Éditions Écosociété, Ligue des Droits et Libertés, Nature Québec, Réseau Québécois des Groupes Écologistes and Rainforest Action Network.

You can read more about the lawsuit - and how Resolute is putting the Boreal Forest at risk - on the Greenpeace Canada website.

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