TORONTO, Nov. 22 /CSRwire/ – Ecuadorian indigenous and farmer communities are building significant momentum in Canada’s appellate courts in their effort to enforce the $9.5 billion pollution judgment against Chevron by seizing company assets in the country, according to a new analysis posted by lawyers fighting the oil major.
Momentum against Chevron is building in Canada after evidence emerged that the company committed fraud in a retaliatory lawsuit in the United States by paying an admittedly corrupt witness $2 million to falsely claim that the Ecuador judgment was “ghostwritten” by the plaintiffs. The witness, Alberto Guerra, later admitted he perjured himself and a forensic examination proved his story false, as confirmed by legal filings and reported by news outlets.
The latest analysis of the Canada litigation, which can be read here, points out that Canadian appellate courts have issued three consecutive unanimous decisions denying attempts by Chevron to block or hinder the enforcement action. Ecuador’s courts already imposed a $9.5 billion judgment on the company after it was found liable for deliberately discharging billions of gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest, decimating indigenous groups and causing an outbreak of cancer and other health problems.
In all, 13 appellate judges in Canada – including the country’s entire Supreme Court — have ruled in favor of the Ecuadorian indigenous groups. No appellate judge in Canada has ruled in favor of Chevron.
In Ecuador, all eight appellate judges to hear the case have affirmed Chevron’s liability. In all, 21 appellate judges in Canada and Ecuador have ruled against Chevron and none have ruled in its favor.
Chevron’s latest reversal in Canada came recently when a three-judge panel on the Ontario Court of Appeal strongly criticized the company for trying to end the Ecuador litigation by imposing a $1 million costs order on the indigenous groups, the analysis asserted.
“The decision was a stunning setback for Chevron,” concluded the analysis.
The Ontario Court of Appeal, considered by many to be the country’s most influential court after the Canada Supreme Court, also ruled unanimously against Chevron in 2014 when the company tried to block the enforcement action on jurisdictional grounds.
In 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court also ruled unanimously against Chevron when it tried to re-litigate the jurisdictional issue over the Ecuador judgment in Canada after the company already had accepted jurisdiction in Ecuador’s courts and litigated the case there for 11 years.
Patricio Salazar, a lawyer who represents the grass roots coalition that brought the case (the Amazon Defense Coalition, or “FDA” for its Spanish acronym), said the indigenous groups were asking Canadian courts to move quickly to resolve their claims. The enforcement action was filed in Canada in 2012 after Chevron refused to pay the Ecuador judgment. A company official then promised the indigenous groups a “lifetime of litigation” if they persisted.
“Chevron continues to lose ground in Canadian courts and it seems more and more inevitable that the company will have its assets seized,” said Salazar. “Chevron’s management should immediately cease its attacks against community leaders and their lawyers and seek a dialogue to resolve the matter so that lives can be saved and shareholder interests can be protected.”
Perjury by the Chevron witness, Alberto Guerra, prompted the indigenous peoples to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to open a criminal probe of Chevron and certain of its outside counsel at the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher who coached the witness for 53 days prior to his false testimony. That complaint to the DOJ and the supporting documents can be found here and here.
The Ecuadorians recently received a major boost in Canada from Phil Fontaine, the former National Chief of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations (which includes 640 nationalities); Grand Chief Ed John, a Canadian lawyer and major international leader in the indigenous rights movement; and Rex Weyler, who co-founded Greenpeace and who lives in Vancouver.
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