Thank you, Cantley, Quebec fighters

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by Nikki Mantell on August 18, 2010

If readers see Serge Galipeau or Christine Landry of Cantley, Quebec, give them a big thank you, a hug, maybe even a round of applause – for they are our heroes.

How else can you describe a regular folk type of couple (he’s a civil servant, she a real estate agent) who put themselves through four years of personal hell to fight the bad guys and change the system for the betterment their fellow little guy?

Most readers know by now the married Cantley couple recently won their battle to have a $1.25-million defamation suit launched against them by the owners of a polluting dry dump on Holmes Road deemed a SLAPP case.

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Pubic Participation is usually used by deep-pocketed companies to silence individuals who dare to speak out against the way they do business. Galipeau and Landry were slapped with the suit for telling the public what had already been documented and considered scientific fact: the dump had numerous environmental infractions, was polluting the environment and was emitting toxic fumes that would eventually (if not already) make the neighbours sick.

What readers may not know is the kind of courage and resolve it took not to bow under to the pressure of such a SLAPP. They lost sleep, woke up every day for 48 months to the thought that they may soon be in financial ruin, spent 4,300 hours learning legal jargon and doing research, spent $28,000 in legal fees, re-mortgaged their house, and lived in fear that retaliation may come in other forms (their house was vandalized one afternoon and another neighbour was assaulted after he testified against the owners).

One lawyer who testified before the commission to create the anti-SLAPP legislation said that in almost every case resembling theirs, the defendants go bankrupt and then divorce.

It was a frightening, exhausting and lonely road, but in the end the Cantley couple’s courage to stand up and fight for what was right finally saw the polluting dump closed down by the Ministry of Environment; and they helped make Canadian history when Quebec was the first province to adopt Bill 9, the anti-SLAPP law, in June 2009, in no small part thanks to their efforts and testimony.

It should be noted that Galipeau and Landry were not alone in the battle to close down the polluting dump, other neighbours fought too. Guy Legault sued the dump owners and the Quebec government for alleged health problems and property devaluation (he was the neighbour who was punched in the nose in his own home by an intruder after testifying); the current and previous mayors spoke up and were also slapped with defamation suits from the now bankrupt dump owners, and the Cantley Dump Committee and its president, Bob McClelland, continue to pressure the environment minister to do what it should have done years ago and clean up the dump that to this day mostly remains mostly uncovered and a danger to the environment.

Though that ministry continues to twiddle its thumbs and make excuses about how “complicated” the clean-up process will be (despite issuing the dump numerous infractions since its opening in 1989!), we can all take heart that sometimes, just sometimes, the system works, a law like Bill 9 is passed, and David wins against Goliath.

Thank you Serge Galipeau and Christine Landry and all the Cantley fighters who would

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Thank you, Cantley, Quebec fighters | Lowdown Online | Quebec Lawyers
08.18.10 at 9:15 pm

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