Indigenous plaintiffs from Ecuador just learned that they will be able to go to trial in a Canadian court to seek approximately $12 billion in company assets from Chevron, in order to enforce an environmental judgment.
On Friday, January 20, Justice Glenn Hainey of the Ontario trial court ruled that the villagers “may proceed to trial” against Chevron with the company being allowed to present a limited number of defenses related to its claims that the Ecuador judgment was a product of fraud.
The recent announcement reflects the latest chapter in the conflict between the Indigenous rainforest community and the oil giant; the legal battles have stretched across three countries so far, Ecuador, the U.S. and Canada.
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The indigenous people of that community in Ecuador have been struggling with severe oil-related contamination of their lands for decades, and they have been attempting to recover billions of dollars from Chevron which was found guilty of causing the environmental devastation.
The legal fight started in Ecuador more than 20 years ago. By 2011 and then in 2013 Ecuadorean courts found Chevron guilty of dumping billions of gallons of oil-laced toxic waste into the rainforest, causing an outbreak of cancer and other diseases affecting 30,000 people.
The court challenges continued in the United States and, as of 2012, Canada. The plaintiffs wanted to litigate the case wherever Chevron had assets which lead them to Canada in 2012.
“The bottom line is that we are now one big step closer to our goal in Canada of forcing Chevron to comply with the rule of law and be held accountable for its environmental crimes in Ecuador,” said Carlos Guaman, the leader of the Amazon Defense Coalition, the grass roots organization in the rainforest that brought the underlying lawsuit and the enforcement action.
“The part of the decision allowing us to proceed to trial is extremely helpful while we see the corporate separateness issue as something we will win on appeal, allowing us to go ahead with our plan to seize the company’s assets,” he added.
Regarding the timeline for the next legal action, Karen Hinton, a U.S. based spokesperson for the plaintiffs, predicted that they will return to court before the end of the year.
“The villagers expect to proceed later this year with their seizure of Chevron’s assets to force the company to respect multiple court judgments that found it guilty of dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the waterways of Ecuador, causing an outbreak of cancer and other harms afflicting thousands of people,” Hinton said.
“Ultimately, we are confident that Canada’s courts will hold Chevron fully accountable for its outrageous and criminal conduct in Ecuador.”