Not a Colony

Citizen groups denounce court ruling: places corporate rights above health and the environment

  • September 20, 2005 9:13 pm

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Ottawa–Citizen and environmental groups denounced yesterday’s Federal Court ruling that Canada owes a US corporation millions of dollars under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The court affirmed an earlier trade tribunal decision that Canada could not prohibit the export of hazardous waste contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) into the United States without violating the US corporation’s so-called “investor-rights.” The Council of Canadians and Sierra Club of Canada are demanding that the Canadian government appeal this ruling.

“It is ridiculous for the Federal Court of Canada to uphold a ruling that so clearly favours corporate profits over environmental regulation.” stated Jean-Yves LeFort of the Council of Canadians “This ruling is costing Canadian tax payers millions of dollars and seriously compromises Canada’s international obligations and domestic law on hazardous waste treatment.”

The Federal Court ruling upholds a NAFTA tribunal decision stating that under the controversial Chapter 11, the Canadian Environment Minister could not prohibit the export of toxic waste to the U.S. Today’s tribunal ruling grants S.D. Myers Inc., of Tallmudge, Ohio, USD $8-million with an additional USD $1-million in interest accumulated during the appeal process.

The United Nations Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste was negotiated between 130 countries to explicitly restrict cross-border trade and traffic in hazardous waste. The Basel Convention is named in NAFTA as an appropriate environmental treaty that does not trigger trade sanctions; however, the tribunal refused to acknowledge the Convention because the U.S has not ratified it.

“Astonishingly, the fact that the importation of this hazardous waste was illegal under US law didn’t deter the tribunal from ruling that Canada had nevertheless offended the rights of the US company.” explained Andrea Peart, Director of Health and Environment with Sierra Club of Canada.

Sierra Club of Canada and the Council of Canadians application to gain intervenor status before the Federal Court in the public interest were denied, exemplifying the closed and arbitrary nature of the NAFTA Chapter 11 process.