Poetry, that harmless, airy-fairy, abstruse pursuit … that you get slapped with a $5.6 million lawsuit for. Come again? Yes, this is exactly what happens in Stephen Harper‘s Canada, where Vancouver poet and professor at Simon Fraser University Stephen Collis is one of six defendants being sued for $5.6 million by Texas-headquartered energy giant Kinder Morgan (slogan: “A Different Kind of Energy Company”) “for their part in opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline and terminal expansion” at Burnaby Mountain. This follows a move by the city of Burnaby to appeal against a decision by Canada’s National Energy Board to allow Kinder Morgan access to Burnaby Mountain.
Collis’s protest group the Caretakers has already secured donations to cover its legal defense, with some 100 environmental and labour organizations reportedly supporting the defendants. A Change.org petition has been launched to “Defend Free Speech Against Kinder Morgan.” It states:
These protestors, including two SFU faculty, Dr Stephen Collis and Dr Lynne Quarmby, are exercising their rights to free speech on public land. Yet Trans Mountain, the subsidiary of the energy company Kinder Morgan, is seeking an injunction to halt protests on Burnaby Mountain against its surveying work for the Trans Mountain Pipeline. In addition, Trans Mountain have named five individuals, including Dr Collis and Dr Quarmby, in a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages for lost revenues.
Kinder Morgan’s lawyer has reportedly already quoted one of Stephen Collis’s works as part of his case against the poet. Meanwhile, other poets and literary figures are gathering further opposition against the case, the pipeline project, and Kinder Morgan itself.