The Steering Committee of the Law Union of Ontario is urging all of its members to resign from the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) as a result of the CBA’s intervention in Chevron Corporation, et al. v. Yaiguaje, et al. We have written to CBA to this effect; the full text of this letter is at the end of this post.
In 2011, after nearly 20 years of battle, an Ecuadorian court ruled that Chevron had to compensate victims for the destruction it had caused. The Supreme Court of Ecuador ratified this decision and set damages at US $9.51 billion.
In December 2013, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that Ecuador’s indigenous communities were entitled to have their case against Chevron Canada heard in Ontario. Chevron is appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).
In September 2014, the CBA announced its decision to have Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP submit a brief to the SCC on issues of corporate identity. Blakes represents Chevron in other matters. This decision by the CBA both followed and propelled widespread criticism from CBA sections and CBA members, including the CBA’s Legislative and Law Reform Committee, which had recommended against proceeding with the intervention when it was first proposed. Critics pointed to a lack of consultation in the intervention decision-making process and a violation of the CBA’s stated public interest/access to justice mandate.
In calling for CBA member resignations, we follow the lead of advocates, lawyers, and law students who are protesting both the process and the substance of the CBA’s intervention. In particular, we would highlight the following statements:
Petition to CBA: Withdraw from the Supreme Court of Canada or Don’t File an Argument
We write to advise you that the Steering Committee of the Law Union of Ontario is urging all of its members to resign from the CBA as a result of your intervention in Chevron Corporation, et al. v. Yaiguaje, et al at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Your intervention flies in the face of any concern for the environment; your stated commitment to access to justice; your own members’ objections; and our profession’s ethic requiring us to act in the public interest, unless acting for a party to litigation.
A majority of the world’s global mining industry is based in Canada. It is an industry targeted internationally for being associated with environmental harm and human rights abuses. There is a federal government-led national consultation underway evaluating corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) and the extractive sector. The Law Union will be making a submission to the Government in favour of legal reforms to hold Canadian-based mining companies accountable for environmental harms and human rights abuses abroad.
In June 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) issued a report titled “Mining in Developing Countries and Corporate Social Responsibility” calling for greater accountability of Canadian mining companies.
The Government response to the Committee focused on the establishment of a roundtable consultation on CSR and the extractive sector. Whether the Government will commit to legal reforms or proceed exclusively with “soft” approaches is a major unknown at this time.
The Law Union hosted a panel at the 2006 Annual Conference titled “Canadian Corporations and Environmental Crimes” and released a background paper (written by Sarah Dover) titled “Fighting Canadian Corporations and Environmental Crimes: Human Rights Violations and Environmental Harms by Canadian Mining Companies – A Call for Law Reform”.
The Law Union then organized a working group to provide law reform ideas and momentum (this group has been “resting” over the summer…). Simon Archer and Sarah Dover are currently working on a written submission to the roundtable (due November 17th). Next steps will involve looking to the law union membership and the mining working group for ideas and involvement in law reform efforts.
The Halifax Initiative: Extractive Industries and
Corporate Social Responsibility
National Roundtables on Corporate Social
Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector
in Developing Countries
The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and
International Trade Fourteenth Report
Panel at the Law Union Annual Conference March 25, 2006, 1:30-3:00
Moderator: Sarah Dover, Articling Student, Birchall Northey LLP
Canadian mining operations now span more than 100 countries â€“ an expansion that has left some of the worldâ€™s worst environment disasters in its wake. The record of this industry within Canada has also been marked by bulldozing local interests, environmental destruction and violation of indigenous rights. This panel will compare legal options for holding Canadian mining corporations accountable for their actions within Canada and abroad in anticipation of the federal government considering new regulation to address environmental harms and human rights abuses by Canadian mining companies committed outside of Canada. Panellists Justin Duncan – is a Staff Lawyer with Sierra Legal Defence Fund in Toronto. His recent legal battles include victories in protecting a provincial park from the re-opening of a road and defending municipal pesticide bylaws. He is actively involved in public legal education to give Canadian activists tools to battle corporations and governments that would harm the environment. Grahame Russell – is the co-director of Rights Action, a non-governmental organization that supports community-controlled development and human rights projects in Mexico, Central America and Haiti, and that carries out education and activism work in Canada and the US related to global human rights and development issues. Grahame works on community impacts in the South of Canadian mining operations. Sara Seck – is a phD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School specializing in the regulation of Canadian mining corporations abroad. She delivered the keynote address, titled â€œExploding the Myths: Why Home States are Reluctant to Regulate”, at the November 2005 multi-stakeholder round table on “Regulating Canadian Mining Companies Operating Internationally” hosted by MiningWatch. Catherine Coumans – is the Research Coordinator and responsible for the Asia-Pacific Program at MiningWatch Canada which co-ordinates the public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world. Catherine is intimately familiar with the current effort to push the federal government towards regulating Canadian mining companies outside Canada and sits on the an Advisory Group to the government’s roundtable process on Corporate Social Responsibility and Mining.