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We're Heading to Court to Protect Canada's Environmental Laws


Members of ECELAW, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, and friends at a community event on Digby Neck
Image credit: Robin Tress

Dear Friends,

Can Canadians defend and protect the integrity of their environment, or have we surrendered that right to international trade authorities? That most fundamental question of national sovereignty will be heard in Federal Court where the stakes could not be higher.
Almost 10 years after a joint Canada-Nova Scotia environmental assessment review panel rejected a proposed basalt quarry and marine terminal at Whites Point on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, we are forced to defend that decision and Canadian environmental law against a NAFTA tribunal’s finding that the review process was discriminatory and unfair to the quarry’s proponent, Bilcon.

The NAFTA decision, if it stands, would award Bilcon compensation for its loss, potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Even more importantly, if the NAFTA decision stands, Canadians’ ability to protect our environment is seriously compromised.

The East Coast Environmental Law Association (ECELAW) and the Sierra Club Canada Foundation, represented by Ecojustice, have partnered to intervene before the court and will do whatever we can to salvage Canadian environmental protection in law.

Image credit: Russell Monk

Bilcon’s reference to NAFTA was based on Chapter 11 of the treaty, which is purported to extend fair and equal treatment to companies from each of the three treaty nations when they are operating outside their own jurisdiction.

A pivotal point in the case, however, was the NAFTA tribunal’s contention that the environmental panel went too far in considering the socio-economic impacts of the quarry on residents of Digby Neck and the Islands. In other words, NAFTA’s ruling indicated that the core values of people who live and work in the area are not part of the Canadian environmental assessment process.

That position runs counter to Nova Scotia law, which expressly defines socio-economic consequences as an environmental impact.

Image credit: Russell Monk

The environmental impact assessment considered the future of Digby Neck and the two islands formed by a magnificent finger of mountain that juts into the Bay of Fundy.  The ramifications of the NAFTA decision touch Canadians wherever they live, and will determine whether we, or international trade deals determine how or if our environment is protected.

ECELAW’s ability to intervene in this matter depends on donations from supporters like you. Pease donate today.

With Hope, 

Aaron Ward, Executive Director
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East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) is Atlantic Canada’s only public-interest environmental law charity. Our mission is to encourage the development and fair application of innovative and effective environmental laws in Atlantic Canada by increasing public awareness, educating future environmental law professionals and collaborating with the public, stakeholders, and government.

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