SFSC Letter: Kinder Morgan’s lawsuit another outrageous SLAPP suit filed to silence opposition and intimidate protesters

The Seriously Free Speech Committee opposes Kinder Morgan’s SLAPP suit against Burnaby Residents Opposing Pipeline Expansion and four protesters and joins with more than 65 community, environmental and labour groups and thousands of citizens condemning this outrageous attack against citizens’ rights of free speech and protest, including civil disobedience.

The Seriously Free Speech Committee was originally formed to fight this type of legal bullying when CanWest, former owners of The Vancouver Sun, filed a SLAPP suit in 2007 in an attempt to punish those who published a satirical critique of The Sun’s pro-Zionist coverage of the Middle East. Though Canwest went bankrupt and dropped the suit, we’ve continued to advocate for the need to pass anti-SLAPP legislation to stop corporate giants from misusing and abusing the legal system.

SLAPPs — Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – are effective tools for deep-pocketed interests because they force citizens to waste thousands of dollars on legal costs to defend themselves, to spend countless hours on their legal defence rather than the issue at hand, and to experience enormous anxiety and stress at the threat of severe financial penalties.

Besides Kinder Morgan, other high-profile SLAPPs include the McDonald’s Corp. in England pursuing legal action for more than 10 years against two environmental activists, Daishowa Inc. suing the Friends of Lubicon in Ontario after being criticized for engaging in genocide, and backers of a billion dollar development on shores of Lake Simcoe, Ont. against citizens concerned about the environment.

Quebec is the only province that has passed anti-SLAPP legislation, the result of a long citizen struggle that began in 2005 by two groups that were victims of a $5 million lawsuit. In BC, the NDP government passed anti-SLAPP legislation in 2001, but, unfortunately, it was soon repealed by a later Liberal government.

In Ontario, an anti-SLAPP law received second reading, but died when the last election was called. In the US, 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have enacted statutory protections against SLAPPs.

The Seriously Free Speech Committee calls on Kinder Morgan to abandon this attack on free speech and withdraw its suit immediately. To deter corporate giants from acting like legal bullies, BC and other provinces across Canada must follow Quebec’s lead and pass anti-SLAPP legislation as soon as possible. Kinder Morgan’s SLAPP should be the last straw.

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