TORONTO, Sep. 21 /CSRwire/ – In a blow to Chevron’s prospects in the historic Ecuador pollution litigation, three major Canadian indigenous leaders and a co-founder of Greenpeace have announced they are joining with rainforest communities to force the oil major to comply with an Ecuador court order that it remediate damage caused by the deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon region.
The move is significant largely because Chevron is potentially on the hook in Canadian courts for 100% of a $9.5 billion Ecuador judgment, which was won by the communities in 2011. The amount since has risen to $12 billion due to interest that has accrued since an enforcement action was filed in Canada in 2012. Chevron has vowed not to pay the judgment and has promised the indigenous groups “a lifetime of litigation” if they persist.
Chevron has assets in Canada estimated to be worth $15 billion to $25 billion. The company also is building new pipelines in Canada through indigenous territory without permission of the local communities in an apparent violation of the law, the leaders say.
The three Canadian indigenous leaders joining the battle against Chevron include Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations (AFN), comprised of Canada’s 633 indigenous nationalities; Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, a Cree chief, lawyer, and former member of Canadian Parliament, who helped draft the original UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Grand Chief Ed John, a hereditary Chief of Tl’azt’en Nation in British Columbia, a lawyer, member of BC’s First Nations Summit Task Group on Aboriginal Title and Rights, and a Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Also joining forces with the Ecuadorians is Canadian resident Rex Weyler, a co-founder of Greenpeace in the 1970s. Weyler, a successful author and longtime environmental activist, now writes the “Deep Green” blog that has attracted a global following on the Greenpeace International website.
The three indigenous leaders and Weyler were invited to join the campaign against Chevron by the Amazon Defense Coalition (FDA), a non-profit organization based in Ecuador that brought the original lawsuit in 1993. The FDA represents the 80 indigenous and farmer communities in an impacted area of 1,500 sq. miles that locals call the “Amazon Cherobyl”; one its leaders, Luis Yanza, won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, considered the “Nobel” of the environment.
The Canadian indigenous leaders said that Chevron’s “irresponsible” refusal to remediate the damage it caused to indigenous communities in the Amazon “raises deep concerns about how Chevron is dealing with our own indigenous communities in Canada as it plans to develop major pipelines through aboriginal territories in Western Canada without the consent of the aboriginal peoples, just as happened years ago in Ecuador,” said Fontaine, who in 2008 helped to negotiate a settlement with the Canadian government for $6 billion on behalf of 36,000 indigenous victims of residential school abuse.
Fontaine added that much of Chevron’s development in Canada, as it was in Ecuador’s Amazon region, is through untouched and inaccessible territories except to the aboriginal titleholders.
“I am pleased to join forces with our indigenous brothers and sisters in Ecuador in their fight for justice,” said Fontaine. “Clearly Chevron has caused significant harm to the environment and to the health of the indigenous peoples in this area and must be held accountable. It is unconscionable that they have been allowed to shirk their responsibility for as long as they have. Times have changed and the rights of Indigenous people across the world must be recognized and respected.”
Grand Chief Ed John added: “No legal case involving indigenous rights and […]
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