Amazon Watch Statement on Canadian Supreme Court's Refusal to Hear Appeal Regarding Chevron Subsidiary in Enforcement Action

Supreme Court of Canada reinforces corporate impunity by protecting Chevron's Canadian assets. Ecuadorians maintain the right to enforce the judgment in Canada.

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The Canadian Supreme Court, in a one-sentence order, today refused to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that Chevron's wholly-owned subsidiaries should be excluded as defendants in the enforcement action brought by Ecuadorians seeking a clean-up for Chevron's admitted dumping of 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in the Amazon from 1964 to 1992.

Chevron-Canada is a seventh-tier subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, which owes approximately $12 billion dollars to Ecuadorian communities to fund a clean-up and assist in health care costs for the 30,000 victims of Chevron's toxic dumping – as determined by an Ecuadorian court in 2011 and subsequently upheld by that country's highest courts. In all, sixteen separate appellate judges in Ecuador have affirmed the validity of that judgment. To hide its Canadian assets from liability, Chevron has placed them in its 7th-tier subsidiary and claimed they should be off-limits to any enforcement action.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Ecuadorian communities could seek to enforce the Ecuadorian judgement in Canada. Separate from the "corporate veil" issue – holding the subsidiary Chevron-Canada liable – the Ecuadorians were granted the right to enforce their judgment and will still seek to do so against Chevron Corporation, with asset collection to come at a later date in Canada or in any of the dozens of countries where Chevron has operations.

Amazon Watch Associate Director Paul Paz y Miño issued the following statement in response to the order:

"The Canadian Supreme Court's denial is an affront to the very idea of corporate accountability and a message to anyone seeking justice from corporations responsible for environmental or human rights crimes. It does not, however, grant Chevron any actual victory in the Ecuador matter. Chevron has what amounts to a hidden bank account in Canada in its wholly-owned subsidiary and the funds in that account should be seized to force Chevron to pay for a clean-up. In over 25 years of litigation every single judge who has looked at the evidence in Ecuador has ruled that Chevron is responsible for the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste. The obvious truth is that Chevron committed a heinous crime and will ultimately have to pay to clean up, no matter how many billions it spends on trying to escape justice.

This latest order is yet another example of how judicial systems elevate the rights of corporations above those of communities – in this case Indigenous peoples and people of color. By refusing to hear the appeal, Canada's Supreme Court is hiding behind a lower court order and signaling that for the time being corporations can hide their assets in Canada in an attempt to escape justice. Ultimately, the court will need to decide if it will deny the rights of Indigenous peoples and other affected communities to justice as they proceed to enforce their hard-won verdict.

Amazon Watch hopes the environmental, human rights, and corporate accountability communities demonstrate their disappointment in Canada's protection for corporate power in the face of communities harmed by the largest oil-related disaster in history."

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