(OTTAWA) – The Green Party of Canada applauds the Federal Court decision to allow Canada to appeal the outrageous ruling against Canada by a panel of arbitrators under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. Under Chapter 11, U.S. corporation Bilcon had the right to bring a claim against Canada when its environmentally destructive project was rejected.
In 2006, under Canada's previous fair and thorough environmental assessment law, a joint federal-provincial panel ruled that the proposed open pit quarry in Digby Neck, N.S., was a threat to endangered whales, the local fishing economy and community values. Both the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Environment Minister Mark Parent and the federal Conservative Environment Minister John Baird turned down Bilcon's proposal. Bilcon then sought damages against Canada under the provisions of Chapter 11 of NAFTA. Following the secret hearings, in a split 2-1 decision, Canada lost. Bilcon is now seeking $400 million in damages after arguing that the federal-provincial environmental review of the project was arbitrary, discriminatory and unfair.
On Feb. 22, the Federal Court rejected Bilcon’s application to have Canada’s appeal thrown out. Find the decision here.
Paul Manly, GPC International Trade Critic, said: “We are very pleased to see the court decide that this appeal should move forward. The original ruling overstepped the mandate of the NAFTA tribunal and the government of Canada was correct to challenge it. ISDS provisions in Chapter 11 of NAFTA represent the very worst part of this trade agreement. Canadian law and sovereignty should be respected, and we hope that the Government of Canada presses hard to have ISDS provisions removed in any NAFTA renegotiation.”
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, said: “It’s worth noting that if Bilcon had gone to Federal Court and had successfully argued that the Joint Review Panel had breached Canadian environmental law, the company’s only remedy would have been a new environmental assessment — not a multi-million dollar payout. In fact, the decision of both levels of government was well supported by the facts. The environmental assessment panel conducted itself professionally and fairly, as the dissenting arbitrator – also the only Canadian on the panel – asserted.
“Canada is the most-sued country under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. Multinational companies with business interests in Canada will be paying close attention to this federal court decision. We can only hope for a fair hearing as the case moves forward. Appeals against Chapter 11 rulings have failed time after time, but this ruling was a step too far, and an over-reach under NAFTA to claim an environmental assessment was unfair because it considered community values,” Ms. May concluded.
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