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UPDATE: Council of Canadians meets with MEPs on CETA and the tar sands

The Council of Canadians, alongside Indigenous representatives, met with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the issue of the tar sands this past Friday morning. Council of Canadians climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue, Board member Steven Shrybman, and media officer Dylan Penner were present at the meeting.

This meeting was critical because the delegation of MEPs had met with the Alberta government and industry representatives in Edmonton and Fort McMurray earlier in the week and were given a skewed view of the reality of the tar sands. The Edmonton Journal reported, “The Alberta government and industry appear to have won over a group of European Union politicians, who left the province Wednesday saying they plan to push a positive view of the oilsands in debates over new fuel-quality legislation.”

Our challenge was to counter that view.

We met with the following MEPs: Elisabeth Jeggle (Group of the European People’s Party/ Christian Democrats, Germany), Timo Soini (Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, Finland), and Anna Rosbach (Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, Denmark). The Group of the European People’s Party holds 265 seats and is the largest grouping in the 736-member European Parliament. The Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group holds 31 seats.

Steven Shrybman spoke about his new legal opinion commissioned by the Council of Canadians and the Indigenous Environmental Network titled, Potential Impacts of the Proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on the Pace and Character of Oil Sands Development. In it, Shrybman writes that, “It is not a stretch to say the Canadian government sees the CETA negotiations as a tool for constraining the ability of the EU to pass regulations or other domestic measures that would differentiate between products based on their carbon content. The proposed EU Fuel Quality Directive, which would categorize crude derived from the tar sands differently than conventional oil, has already suffered from heavy Canadian and Alberta government lobbying. The Canadian government has proven its willingness to contest similar measures in the United States using international trade and investment rules. CETA also risks granting EU energy companies added investment protections and tools to challenge future Canadian or provincial efforts to regulate tar sands production more effectively.”

After the meeting, Harden-Donahue wrote that, “It is our hope that today’s meeting helped to give MEPs a fuller picture than provided by the Alberta government and tar sands industry.”

The Indigenous representatives at Friday’s meeting included: Assembly of First Nations Vice Chief Eric Morris, Saikuz First Nation Chief Jackie Thomas, Beaver Lake Cree Nation Chief Al Lameman, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spokesperson Eriel Deranger, and Indigenous Environmental Network tar sands campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller. An Edmonton Journal article highlighting their participation in this meeting is at http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Natives+fill+oilsands/3788091/story.html.

The Council of Canadians has also begun to plan its intervention, which will include a wider release of Shrybman’s legal opinion in Europe, during the sixth round of negotiations on the Canada-EU CETA in Brussels this coming January 17-21.

To read climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue’s blog on Friday’s meeting, please go to http://canadians.org/energyblog/?p=329. The 26-page legal opinion on CETA and the tar sands is at http://canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/legal-opinion-CETA-tarsands.pdf. Since the report was posted to our website yesterday morning at 10 am ET, it has been downloaded more than 600 times. A video of Steven Shrybman speaking at a media conference following the meeting with the MEPs is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J6Uo7_LU6c. Our media release on the legal opinion is at http://canadians.org/media/energy/2010/05-Nov-10.html.