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Ecuadoran Indigenous Communities Celebrate Big Win Against Chevron in Ontario Court

Cancillería Ecuador/Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous rainforest communities in Ecuador are celebrating an important win in their fight to seize about $12 billion in Chevron Canada assets to enforce a judgement against the fossil’s multinational parent company in their home country.

Justice Glenn Hainey of the Ontario trial court ruled Friday that the villagers ‘may proceed to trial’ against Chevron, with the company being allowed to present a limited number of defences related to its claims that the Ecuador judgment was a product of fraud.,” the Amazon Defense Coalition reports. But “three layers of courts in Ecuador already have rejected Chevron’s fraud claims, which have further weakened in recent months with an admission by Chevron’s star witness that he had lied under oath.

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Hainey’s ruling “knocked out several key Chevron defences to enforcement of the Ecuador environmental judgment on the grounds that the company already litigated them in Ecuador,” the Coalition notes. “Chevron accepted jurisdiction in Ecuador in 2001, and in 2011 was found guilty of dumping billions of gallons of oil-laced toxic waste into the rainforest, causing an outbreak of cancer and other diseases affecting 30,000 people.

Chevron had challenged Canadian courts’ jurisdiction to hear the case, but the Supreme Court threw out that argument in September 2015.

Hainey did rule that Chevron Canada’s assets, valued at about $25 billion, are off-limits in a case against its parent company. “But the plaintiffs predicted that part of the decision would be ‘swiftly reversed’ by an appellate court, as already happened with a different Chevron jurisdictional challenge in 2014,” the Coalition states. “Chevron Canada will be reinstated as a defendant in the enforcement action should that part of the decision be reversed on appeal, which is expected to be decided in roughly six months.”

“The bottom line is that we are now one big step closer to our goal in Canada of forcing Chevron to comply with the rule of law and be held accountable for its environmental crimes in Ecuador,” said community leader Carlos Guaman.

“This latest decision at core is a resounding victory for Ecuadorian Indigenous groups and farmer communities who have struggled for more than two decades to force Chevron to clean up its toxic waste,” added Karen Hinton, a campaign spokesperson based in the United States. “The court sent Chevron a powerful message that it can no longer ride the legal merry-go-round and re-litigate the same discredited defences in different courts as part of its strategy of delay.” (h/t to The Energy Mix subscriber Silver Donald Cameron for pointing us to this story)