Alan Dutton's case raises alarming questions

The curious case of Alan Dutton raises troubling questions about our rights to protest.

The Burnaby resident stuck his neck out and decided not to settle in Kinder Morgan's multimillion-dollar civil suit. Instead, he tried to get the B.C. Supreme Court to dismiss the case and called for new anti-SLAPP suit legislation in B.C.

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But Wednesday, the judge rejected his request and deferred the decision on costs, meaning Dutton could be on the hook for legal fees.

The civil case alleged the Burnaby Mountain protesters committed numerous unlawful acts, and five individuals were named, Dutton being one of them.

 Dutton is adamant that he was not part of those acts and that there's no evidence to prove it.

What's happened is Kinder Morgan made collective allegations about a group of protesters on the mountain and named Dutton, along with the four others, because he was easy to identify.

In this most recent court case, Dutton's argument - that he didn't do it - was ignored by the judge.

We understand civil suits like Kinder Morgan's are often brought forward while seeking an injunction, and Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said he wouldn't pursue the case if the company got its work done. But the fact you can sue a group of people, claim millions in damages and blame a few in the crowd for the acts committed by the whole is alarming.

What happens if you are at a protest and someone throws a brick through a window? Could you be sued because you're an easy face to pick out of the crowd?

 Dutton took this case on to stand up for freedom of expression and the right to protest, but the judge's decision raises serious questions about how we can exercise those rights.

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