Look out, Chevron: Ecuadorian villagers can now seek justice in Canadian courts

September 4, 2015

The CLC applauds the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous ruling that Ecuadorian villagers can proceed with their claim against Chevron in an Ontario Court.

At issue are Texaco’s oil exploration and extraction activities in Ecuador between 1972 and 1990 (Texaco is now owned by Chevron). The region has suffered extensive environmental pollution that has disrupted the lives and jeopardized the future of approximately 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorian villagers.

An Ecuadorian provincial court sided with the villagers in February 2011 and awarded damages. Since the judgement, Chevron has fought the plaintiffs in US courts and has refused to acknowledge guilt or pay up.

The door opens in Canada 

Today’s SCC decision gives the villagers the right to ask Ontario courts to recognize and enforce the Ecuadorian judgement. The decision represents another step towards bringing justice to victims of wrongdoing by multinational corporations.

Canadian companies in particular will be watching this development closely. Canadian extractive sector companies have interests in more than 8,000 sites in over 100 countries globally. Their impact is often destructive.

Canadian-owned companies operating overseas have been associated with:

  • Human rights abuses
  • Injured or killed workers
  • Environmental destruction, and
  • Corruption that prevents tax revenues from being invested back into communities and public services

Global solidarity, Canadian-style

Canadian unions are responding. In November 2014, the CLC announced its support of the Canadian Network of Corporate Accountability’s Open for Justice Campaign.

The Open for Justice Campaign calls on the Canadian government to:

  • Create a human rights Ombudsman for the international extractive sector. We want this Ombudsman to be independent, impartial and empowered to investigate, report publicly and make recommendations to companies and to the government
  • Facilitate access to Canadian courts for people who have been seriously harmed by the international operations of Canadian companies.

Instituting these measures will help ensure that Canadian mining, oil and gas companies live up to human rights, labour and environmental standards, including those outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.