The environmental watchdog established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) “is dying a slow death,” its former head of enforcement says, with member countries delaying investigations into the Canadian government’s record on salmon fishing and tar sands/oil sands production.
Canada, the U.S., and Mexico established the Commission on Environmental Cooperation in 1995 to ensure that economic development under NAFTA met environmental standards. But now, “they just don’t want this commission to do anything that pushes the envelope,” Geoff Garver told iPolitics. “They just didn’t want anything of any interest coming out of that place.”
In both the salmon and tar sands/oil sands cases, commission legal staff found evidence to support claims of environmental damage, Weber writes. But full investigations must be approved by majority vote of the three countries’ environment ministers, and the voting deadlines have passed on both complaints.
“Citizens often feel, in the face of these international agencies, that they have no power,” said Albert Koehl of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm that made seven submissions to the commission. The Commission “was supposed to right the ship,” but “because of the political interference by the ministers, citizens can’t have that confidence.”