el salvador rain forest

Friday, June 26, 2015

Given our shared struggle for human rights and corporate accountability, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) supports the position of the El Salvadoran government in respect to the investor-state arbitration suit with OceanaGold.

The CLC is against investor-state arbitration that drains countries of their natural resources and gives power to corporations. We call on the Canadian government to reject the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process, and the trade and investment model on which it is based.

Canadian unions support Salvaide’s Stop the Suits Tour, a campaign to raise awareness of the ISDS currently affecting the people of El Salvador.

OceanaGold, a Canadian-Australia mining company operating in El Salvador is suing the El Salvadoran government for US$301 million because they were denied a permit to operate a gold mine, despite not having met regulatory requirements. A ruling is expected any day now.

This permit was denied because El Salvador is suffering from a severe water crisis, and mining directly contributes to the destruction of their eco-system.

El Salvador is one of the most deforested countries in Latin America and are experiencing the harshest effects of climate change. 

Why we oppose this:

  1. This case undermines national sovereignty and directly contradicts El Salvador’s ban on mining in their country.
  2. ISDS’s are undemocratic; proceedings take place behind closed doors and out of reach of concerned citizens.
  3. Foreign investor protections in multilateral and bilateral treaties have allowed corporations to challenge environmental regulation, public health measures, labour protections, and even decisions of national courts.
  4. Investor-state arbitration means that corporations can sue countries for heinous amounts of money, which in El Salvador’s case amounts to about 5% their GDP.
  5. Cases such as these set a precedent and normalize the perception that corporate interests come before the public good.

El Salvador is not the only country battling ISDS. Calgary-based Lone Pine Resources is suing Canada for $250 million in response to Quebec’s decision to put a ban on shale gas mining, known as fracking. This measure, broadly supported in Quebec, is based on concern for people’s health and the environment. 

ISDS’s have increased dramatically. Canada is the target country for over 70% of these suits and has already paid tens of millions to foreign corporations. Canada may have to pay up to $2 billion more in settlements brought under NAFTA.