Council of Canadians Honorary Chairperson, Blue Planet Project founder and internationally-renowned water activist Maude Barlow issued the following statement yesterday, May 21, 2019.
The Union of People Affected by Texaco (UDAPT), a coalition of more than 30,000 small farmers and Indigenous people affected by the oil operations of Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorian Amazon, has been fighting for more than 25 years to make Chevron pay for the remediation of an environmental disaster it caused. Chevron emptied more than 60 billion gallons of toxic water into streams, rivers and lakes. The company spilled 650 thousand barrels of crude directly into the rainforest and left 880 pits filled with solid waste exposed.
In 2011, after years of trials, the court of Lago Agrio finally condemned Chevron for its actions, requiring the company to pay $9.5 billion for the reparation of the social, cultural and environmental damages in Ecuador. The reparation never came though as Chevron had removed all its assets from Ecuador. So the affected communities had to turn to other courts in Argentina, Brazil and Canada to seek recognition and enforcement of this judgment.
On June 27, 2018, the Ecuadorian people celebrated their victory against Chevron at the Constitutional Court of Ecuador, which ratified the decision of the other courts. People were happy as they assumed that the judgment for reparation could not be questioned or appealed anymore. But they underestimated Chevron’s enormous power and the United States’ interest to finalize an international trade agreement between Ecuador and the U.S.
Two months later however, an arbitral tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague declared that Ecuador violated the US-Ecuador investor agreement and ordered the Ecuadorian government to prevent the Ecuadorian verdict to be enforced in Ecuador or other countries. This arbitral award implies that the government of Ecuador has to violate its own constitution and to interfere in the communities’ trial against Chevron. This is an illegal and unconstitutional decision which might represent a dangerous international precedent as it sets arbitration tribunals above national courts.
Meanwhile the Ecuadorians put faith in an appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada. They set all their hope in the Canadian courts which were said to be an excellent justice system. But they were devastated by the decision. April 2019 he Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the plaintiffs' application for leave to appeal in order to review an Ontario court decision that declared that the assets of Chevron Canada are not part those of the parent company and ordered the communities to pay USD 350,000 in costs to Chevron. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada exposes once again the legal architecture that protects the impunity of transnational corporations.
Pablo Fajardo, a leader of UDAPT, lamented: “There is no justice for us. The transnational corporations control the judicial systems. How can it be that Indigenous peoples, peasants, poor people have no right to have rights? How can it be that the judges demand $350,000 to be paid by communities which don’t have clean drinking water?”
The Amazon people came to Canada to seek justice, but instead were condemned to pay, although the Chevron case is a public interest case. The company itself impoverished the communities and destroyed their means of subsistence. Fish are contaminated, animals have deserted the forest and the biodiversity is severely affected. The communities of the UDAPT did not seek individual reparation, but only the reparation of their lands. They should have been exempted of the costs of justice. Chevron succeeded in hiding itself behind its numerous subsidiaries and a flawed corporate friendly juridical structure. The judges decision shows that the justice systems in the world are not made for Indigenous peoples or to protect the nature. The crimes committed by Chevron are undeniable, visible and tangible.
The poisons still flow down in the rivers and lands of the Amazon.
We, as Canadians, call on the justice system as well as on the political leaders of our country, to take in account what happened with the Chevron case and to change our laws in order not to allow such crimes to occur again and to support the UN binding treaty on transnational corporations and human rights. We join our voices with the 260 organizations representing more than 280 million people, to ask the president of Ecuador not to interfere in the trial between the communities of the UDAPT as demanded in the arbitral award en favour of Chevron which undermines the rights of the peoples and nature.