by Stefania Seccia, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER — A Burnaby, B.C. man argued in court on Tuesday that a multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed by Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline is an attempt to stifle democratic activities.
Alan Dutton, a member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion and a defendant in the $5.6-million lawsuit seeking damages against the protesters, is refusing to settle out of court.
In B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dutton said the case was an abuse of process and highlighted the need for anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation.
Josh Paterson, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said it’s up to the defendant and his counsel to prove that the lawsuit filed by Kinder Morgan was a strategic lawsuit against public participation.
“From our perspective, we’ve said that there needs to be legislation in this province that makes it easier and faster for so-called SLAPP lawsuits to be identified and disposed of,” he said.
Paterson said the province had legislation in place until 2001 that expedited the court’s determination as to whether a case was a SLAPP suit.
The BCCLA is calling on the province to reinstate such legislation.
While B.C. Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton was unavailable for an interview, a ministry spokesperson said the province “is in line with most Canadian jurisdictions which do not provide for what is sometimes described as ‘anti-SLAPP’ legislation.”
“The challenge with such legislation is determining the basis for dismissing a civil claim prior to a hearing on its merits,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement.
The decision on whether a case is legitimate or not is up to the court’s discretion, according to Section 18 of the Supreme Court Act, which outlines general criteria for what constitutes a frivolous claim.
Trans Mountain deferred comment about the court case until it is officially concluded.
The case will be back in court on Wednesday.