Weilers LLP

What Is A “Matter OF Public Interest”?

What Is A “Matter OF Public Interest”?

April 25, 2024

By Brian Babcock 

We have written before explaining anti-SLAPP motions in Ontario.


The test for a defendant to have a SLAPP action dismissed against requires them to prove that their statement under attack arises from a “matter of public interest.

The courts continue to refine our understanding of this requirement.


In Zeppa v. Rea, the Ontario Court of Appeal revisits the issue, considering leading cases at the Supreme Court of Canada. Both the Ontario Court of appeal and the British Columbia Court of appeal, as well as a classic Superior Court decision. The speech attacked in the case was a statement made by a City Councilor about a developer to the police.

The councilor brought an Anti-SLAPP motion which was unsuccessful at the Superior Court level, on the basis that the complaint was not a matter of public interest. The appeal was successful. The Court of Appeal explained:

There is an obvious public interest in members of the public feeling free to report conduct which is of concern to the police. Members of the public must not feel that, in doing so, they may be exposed to litigation, especially litigation of the size commenced by the respondent against the appellant. The appellant felt threatened by the actions of the respondent and she reported her concerns to the police. The fact that the police determined that the actions complained of did not rise to the level of criminal threatening does not change the public interest in ensuring that such concerns are reported to the police and reviewed by them.

The court also cautioned motion judges not to conflate the four stages of review in an anti-SLAPP motion. The judge’s view of the merits does not affect the determination of the public interest requirement, it is a separate stage in the motion.

The motions judge had set too high a “threshold” for “matters of public interest”. The proper approach is to give the test “a generous and expansive interpretation.”

This makes it easier for a defendant to succeed on an anti-SLAPP motion.

The ability of a Plaintiff to protect their reputation arises at the merits review- a viable claim will not be struck out at the motion stage.


This decision shows a balanced approach to anti-SLAPP motions.

  • The Court of appeal continues to take the protection of the public interest seriously.
  • Anti-SLAPP motions are still an area where the law is being clarified.



At Weilers LLP,  we understand the law and, more importantly, understand the art of advocacy necessary to present your case to the court in the best possible manner.

We are happy to help a Plaintiff protect their reputation, but also take on Anti-SLAPP motions for defendants where appropriate, and defend the action if the motion is not appropriate.

We are not afraid of hard cases. We like a challenge. If you value efficiency and effectiveness, Weilers LLP may be the right lawyers for you.