A B.C. Supreme Court judge has turned down a Burnaby man's request to have Kinder Morgan's multimillion-dollar civil suit against him thrown out of court.
Alan Dutton, an active member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, said he was "mad as hell" about the decision.
"How are people going to demonstrate? How are they going to exercise their Charter rights in this country?" Dutton told the NOW.
The judge deferred the decision on costs, meaning Dutton could be on the hook for legal fees. Dutton said the judge did this to prevent him from pursuing any further legal action.
"It's brutal, but we will examine the decision and see if there are grounds for appeal. If there are grounds for appeal, we will be appealing it for sure."
Dutton was one of five protesters named in the civil suit Kinder Morgan brought forward while seeking an injunction against anti-pipeline protesters on Burnaby Mountain. The company alleged the protesters, in general, committed various illegal acts, including trespassing and assault. The other four protesters want to settle with Kinder Morgan. Dutton, however, refused to settle and fought the company in court, arguing the suit should be thrown out.
Dutton is also calling for the reinstatement of anti-SLAPP suit legislation in B.C., which he says will prevent multinational corporations from abusing the court system to silence protesters. (SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation, and the suits are meant to intimidate opponents while forcing them to spend money on legal fees.)
As Dutton tells it, he never committed any of the acts outlined in the civil, but he was named because he is the public face of BROKE. Dutton said he didn't do these illegal acts nor did he condone them.
"I always argued through BROKE that we had to go to the mountain to protest in a peaceful, lawful manner. Simply because I was present on the mountain was sufficient evidence for a civil suit, and the continuance of a civil suit. It's shocking what corporations can do in this country and not have it considered a SLAPP suit," he said. Despite the decision, Dutton said he would do it again.
"The issue is freedom and democracy, the issue is about bringing attention to the kinds of law that are being used to suppress freedom of expression and demonstration, and the laws have to change," Dutton said. "We need anti-SLAPP legislation in B.C."
Kinder Morgan was pleased with the decision.
“We are satisfied with the court’s decision to dismiss the claim. We are firm supporters of free speech and the only goal of our injunction was to ensure we were able to safely carry-out work on Burnaby Mountain. We always maintained the belief and hope that people could peacefully protest while safely allowing us to carry out that work," said Scott Stoness, the company's vice-president regulatory and finance. "Back in December, In the spirit of reconciliation we offered to end any ongoing proceedings against all of the defendants, including Mr. Dutton and believed that his pursuit of further legal action was unnecessary and without merit.”
Correction: An earlier version of this online story said the judge awarded costs to Kinder Morgan, but the decision on that was actually referred to a later date. The four other protesters have not all yet settled. The four are all willing to settle but the civil case has been discontinued for only two of them so far.