Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on January 29, 2018 (updated: January 29, 2018)

We’re in court today to uphold Canada’s environmental protection laws

Devon PageLawyer
Right whales by NOAA
Photo by NOAA

There’s no better way to start a Monday than heading into the courtroom!

Today, our lawyers will be suiting up alongside the Government of Canada to challenge a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ruling that could force Canada to pay more than $500 million in damages for enforcing its own environmental laws.

How did we find ourselves in this position? Here’s a quick breakdown:

Bilcon, an American company, wanted to expand its gravel quarry in an ecologically-sensitive area of Digby Neck, N.S. The project was required to undergo an environmental assessment, and a joint panel found it would adversely impact the ‘core values’ of the surrounding communities. The federal and provincial governments agreed and rejected the project.

But that was not the end of the story. The company filed a NAFTA claim, arguing Canada’s rejection of its proposal was unfair. And this is where things get really interesting: A NAFTA tribunal went outside its realm of expertise to rule on a matter of Canadian law, and found Canada liable — and Bilcon is now seeking at least $500 million in damages!

If this decision stands, it will send a chilling message that even when the Canadian government makes good decisions to protect our environment, there’s a chance a NAFTA tribunal could swoop in, decide our environmental laws are “unfair”, and force Canada to cough up hundreds of millions of dollars — leaving Canadian taxpayers on the hook. We can’t let that happen.

That’s why Ecojustice lawyers will be in court today, representing East Coast Environmental Law and the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. How this case shakes out will have lasting implications on the ability of the Canadian government to enforce its own laws within our borders.

Our clients have been fighting this project since the beginning. What started as an attempt to protect one community and its surrounding environment from harm has turned into a broader fight to ensure international trade agreements do not supersede Canada’s environmental laws.

Will you make a gift today and help us take on this fight? Ecojustice represents all of our clients free of charge. Your donation will ensure that we always put our best foot forward in court.

Please give a gift today.

Build the case for a better earth

Thanks to the support of people like you, Ecojustice goes to court to protect what we value most — the air, land and water that sustains all life. Make your gift today and support bold litigation for a brighter environmental future.

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