Canadian Logging Company Attack on Environmentalists’ Free Speech Fails
WASHINGTON – In a victory for free speech, a U.S. federal court dismissed all claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in a lawsuit brought by a Canadian logging company against environmental groups Greenpeace and Stand.earth, advocates seeking to protect Canada’s boreal forest from controversial logging practices.
“Today is a great day for free speech and environmental advocacy to protect Canada’s boreal forest, one of the world’s last great forests, from destruction,” said Anthony Swift, director of the Canada Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The court rightly understood that bullying lawsuits intended to muzzle speech undermine democracy and our shared right to peaceful political opposition, which is needed now, more than ever,” said Swift.
Resolute, a Montreal-based logging company that sells primarily pulp and paper products, has an extensive presence in the boreal forest, holding rights to log on more than tens of millions of acres in Ontario and Quebec. Resolute’s logging practices in Canada’s boreal forest have become the object of intense criticism. In response, rather than addressing the concerns of the conservation community, Resolute has developed a reputation for using the legal system to muzzle critics, suing governments, auditors of its forestry practices, and environmental organizations.
NRDC filed an amicus brief in a similar case brought against Greenpeace and others by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). Both cases are examples of SLAPP lawsuits, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, which are intended to bully advocates by draining resources and intimidating organizations from speaking out and taking a stand.
This decision in a U.S. District Court does not resolve the entire case, as the court is allowing a handful of claims concerning alleged defamation and unfair competition to proceed. Nor does the decision impact Resolute’s active multi-million dollar lawsuit against Greenpeace Canada and two individual staff members.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.