Urgent Action - Canada on the hook for $500m NAFTA payout

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It's with very heavy heart that I write to say we lost the court case we (Sierra Club Canada Foundation and East Coast Environmental Law) intervened in regarding the Digby Quarry in Nova Scotia.  Our reaction to the judge's decision can be found here.

This means Canada may need to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars for the privilege of rejecting the Digby Quarry, a coastal quarry project planned for the shores of the Bay of Fundy. It also calls into question the validity of assessment and public consultation processes when they evaluate projects proposed by foreign companies protected by trade deals like NAFTA.

The Digby Quarry was rejected in 2007 by both the federal and Nova Scotia Ministers of Environment after undergoing an environmental assessment. The quarry company then turned to a NAFTA Tribunal for compensation, and they are asking for over $500 million CDN. The Tribunal found in Bilcon's favour. The Canadian government then asked Canada's courts to "set aside" the Tribunal's decision. That request was denied on Wednesday by Federal Court Judge Mactavish. 

It turns out our worst fears have been realized and corporations do, in fact, have a separate legal system:

·      one that decides on "facts" that then our own courts cannot question

·      one that does not have to hear from project opponents or independent experts

·      and one where investor's "expectations" are protected with our tax dollars.

In addition to payouts, this comes at the great expense of citizens' expectations for fair and democratic processes to protect our environment and our own communities.

This decision shows how broken NAFTA really is. This decision comes at the exact time Canada, the US and Mexico are in critical negotiations, and our time to act is very short.

Coincidentally, this decision came the exact same day as we and 50 of Canada’s major labour, climate and social justice organizations wrote a joint letter calling for Canada to #replaceNAFTA. 

Canada lost this case, but the negotiations on the next version of NAFTA mean we can fix this, and Digby Neck may make history yet again!

Thank you for helping us get us this far, and thank you for taking action today,

Gretchen Fitzgerald - National Program Director


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