Against impossible odds: Ecuadoreans’ Legal Fight Against Chevron Continues in Canada.
Texaco/Chevron vs Ecuador. Photo: La Hora.
On South America’s teleSur, journalist Joe Emersberger interviews lawyer Stephen Donziger on a crucial case with huge implications for us all.
Donziger: “The fact top law firms around the world are helping the Ecuadorean villagers is terrifying to Chevron and the fossil fuel industry and completely changes the risk calculus of oil drilling in delicate ecosystems. These firms normally represent the oil industry; now they are representing groups fighting that industry. That’s never happened before.”
True, this couldn’t happen without the lawyers. But before, during and after the courts have their say, again and again it’s people who live on the land and water under siege that have to hold the front line. Against Dakota Access, Enbridge, Line 9, Kinder Morgan, Energy East and all the other petro-invaders.
If our planet is to remain livable, these are the first people we should thank, and support.
Governments come and go. But life endures, as long as earth, water and air can sustain it.
All of these face escalating assaults by powerful corporations whose twin obsessions, power and profit, are fundamentally, irredeemably anti-life.
People who defend the essentials of life from theft and degradation need and deserve any support the rest of us can offer. On Turtle Island/North America, often it’s indigenous peoples who live on the front lines, and thus are called to lead some of the most intense struggles.
Standing Rock has the highest profile right now, but there are others just as crucial, though less widely known. Some context:
This arrogant statement directly contradicts the Liberal government´s promises to follow Supreme Court rulings and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which require “free, prior, and informed consent” of Indigenous Nations to any natural resource projects affecting their traditional and treaty territories.
At the behest of its partners in the oil/gas industry, this government is poised to approve, among other dangerous pipelines (see below), the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to carry toxic crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific coast for shipping abroad. It would pass through – invade, really – the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
The Minister’s casual dismissal of the government’s legal obligations provoked strong reactions from First Nations, including this one from Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon: “Consent, it’s what we are demanding, and he will never get our consent, not for something like this. What if we gave Canada 20 Standing Rocks? I wonder if his position will change then.”
In late November this issue will be tested at the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of yet another pipeline, Enbridge’s Line 9. It is due to carry tar sands bitumen and fracked oil to Montreal, crossing more than 120 vital waterways and 830 kilometers of land along the way, including territory of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, without their consent. (Neither does the project have consent from millions of Canadians who live along the route, the most densely populated in Canada, but the government blithely ignores this too.)
Since the Supreme Court agrees to hear only a small fraction of the cases submitted to it, clearly it considers this one vital to the people it is meant to serve. So should we all. Given the catastrophic impacts of mining and transporting tar sands and fracked oil, the fate of this case has profound implications for First Nations, for Canadians, and ultimately for all life on this earth.
Details on the case and how to support it are here.
For an eloquent view of why these struggles keep happening, meet Seneca First Nation biologist Henry Lickers, chapter 1 in Bold Scientists. An excerpt is here.
In darkening times, bright sparks of inspired resistance. In this case, to dangerous pipelines that threaten earth, water, air, and life.
In northwestern Canada, people of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation are resisting not only a proposed liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline and coastal shipping terminal, plus a voracious transnational corporation and two enabling governments, but also the toxic ideology that drives these entities. At its stone cold heart it has only one premise: there is no person or thing on earth, in the sea or sky that can’t be bought and sold.
Henry Lickers also takes a longer view. He’s a Seneca First Nation biologist at Kawehno:ke, Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, not far from another pipeline that people are fighting in eastern Canada. In writing Bold Scientists, I explored with him the deep gap that separates his point-of-view, in line with the Lax Kw’alaams’, from the powerfully seductive one that drives the surrounding society. He replied, in part:
“Our society is responsibility-based, so that means I’m responsible for taking care of the environment. The outside society is rights-based – this is my land, so I have a right to do what I want with it… So we’re always in this fight with Canada or the US – over here we’re talking about our responsibility to protect the environment, and over there you’re saying it’s your right to do what you want. That’s not a good way to function, especially in relation to the environment. You should be aiming really high to protect your environment. Oh no, you say, that would cost too much, it can’t be done at present, et cetera. Is it any wonder the world is going the way it is?”
For more on Henry Lickers’ life and work, see Bold Scientists, chapter 1, When the river roared. Excerpt here.
Two more responsibility-based initiatives oppose yet another dangerous pipeline, Line 9. It’s a 40-year-old pipeline that’s due to transport high volumes of corrosive tar sands bitumen and volatile fracked shale oil from Sarnia, Ontario to refineries in Québec. Along the way, the pipeline crosses many First Nation territories, municipalities, and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people in the most densely populated region of Canada.
The Chippewas of the Thames First Nation have launched a landmark challenge to Line 9 at the Supreme Court of Canada. It’s an initiative that could have enormous impact. It’s also a costly proposition to take on wealthy corporations and governments. Support is needed, and welcome here.
A well-oiled corporate/government PR machine relentlessly denies the overwhelming risks, even after they’re proven by bitter experience. Fortunately for all of us, people living along the routes are onto these lies, and organizing to block the dangerous traffic.
These two crucial initiatives need and deserve support:
* The Enbridge corporation is pushing to activate the notorious Line 9 through southern Ontario and Quebec. If they succeed, within the next few weeks this aging, vulnerable pipeline could be pumping heavy oil under pressure through a densely populated region laced with vital freshwater sources. Citizens groups along the way are working hard to stop it.
In June, 2014, the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation launched a legal challenge to the National Energy Board’s approval* of Line 9, on the grounds that constitutional obligations for consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal rights had not been met. (*The NEB pretends to be independent, but the federal government has effectively stacked it with oil/gas industry supporters.)
* Now the St. Lawrence River in eastern Canada is also being turned into a transport route for tar sands oil, one of the world’s dirtiest fuels. On September 24, the Suncor corporation shipped the first ever vessel of heavy crude down the St. Lawrence River from a port east of Montreal, bound for Italy. A second vessel was stopped recently on the St. Lawrence and temporarily blocked from departing for safety reasons.
The St. Lawrence River is the second longest river in Canada, flowing from the Great Lakes into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way it provides drinking water to millions of people. The river includes four areas designated under the UN Convention of Wetlands of International Importance. The Gulf is the world’s largest estuary, bordering five of 10 Canadian provinces.
All of this faces imminent, irreversible threat. The oil corporations plan to send 20 to 30 vessels loaded with dirty crude down the river each year.