Slip­pery ar­gu­ment

Stink of cor­rup­tion hangs over en­viro con­fer­ence in Banff

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - BRIAN LIL­LEY Guest Colum­nist

It sounds like a gath­er­ing of the an­gels.

Some of Canada’s top en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are in Banff this week­end along­side aca­demics, lead­ing le­gal minds and First Na­tions lead­ers to dis­cuss indige­nous rights and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Too bad their start­ing point has been found to be a a cor­rupt scam.

The “Indige­nous So­lu­tions for En­vi­ron­men­tal Chal­lenges” con­fer­ence will fea­ture lu­mi­nar­ies such as David Suzuki, Roger Wa­ters of Pink Floyd fame and for­mer chief of the Assem­bly of First Na­tions Phil Fon­taine.

They plan to dis­cuss a long run­ning court case out of Ecuador and its im­pact on Indige­nous rights and the en­vi­ron­ment around the world.

The case in ques­tion is called Aguinda v. Chevron, a law­suit brought against the multi­na­tional oil com­pany over claims of en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age dat­ing back decades.

It was a class ac­tion law­suit launched in Equador in 1993 against Chevron al­leg­ing the oil firm, which bought oil fields de­vel­oped ear­lier by Tex­aco, pol­luted Ecuado­rian rivers and rain forests and caused en­vi­ron­men­tal and health dam­age to lo­cal farm­ers and indige­nous tribes­men.

In 2011, an Ecuado­rian judge or­dered Chevron to pay the claimants $18 bil­lion, though on ap­peal that judg­ment was re­duced to $9.5 bil­lion.

Even­tu­ally, the case landed be­fore the United States Court of Ap­peals, which de­ter­mined the $9.5 bil­lion judg­ment against Chevron was cor­rupt, that the claims of en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age had been in­flated and the judg­ment had been achieved through “co­er­cion, bribery, money laun­der­ing and other mis­con­duct.”

One of the lawyers be­hind the case, New York City based Steven Donziger, is an in­vited speaker at the Banff con­fer­ence this week­end.

I’m not sure I should ac­tu­ally call Donziger a lawyer any­more since he had his li­cence pulled by the State of New

York ear­lier this year for “pro­fes­sional mis­con­duct” due to co­er­cion, fraud and bribery in the very case this con­fer­ence is dis­cussing.

He’s de­nied wrong­do­ing and sug­gested al­le­ga­tions against him are part of a Chevron cam­paign to “vil­ify him.”

Mean­while, Canada’s lead­ing lu­mi­nar­ies of the left are hold­ing a con­fer­ence to talk about a court case that has been found to be cor­rupt and fraud­u­lent by a United States court.

It was a re­pu­di­a­tion of Donziger’s work to get a court in Ecuador to award an $8.6 bil­lion US set­tle­ment against Chevron.

The Amer­i­can court found not only cor­rup­tion in the Ecuado­rian courts, in­clud­ing bribes, but that the plain­tiffs had writ­ten parts of the judg­ment them­selves.

They fab­ri­cated ev­i­dence of en­vi­ron­men­tal harm, the court found, and given the size of the award they ini­tially won, their mo­tives seem clear.

This is what Canada’s elites will rally around this week­end in Banff.

Did I men­tion that the con­fer­ence is spon­sored by the Govern­ment of Canada? That ma­jor com­pa­nies such as Royal Bank, think tanks like the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Gov­er­nance In­no­va­tion are be­hind it?

I did men­tion

Phil Fon­taine.

He’s on Donziger’s pay­roll. Ac­cord­ing to a con­tract, now pub­lic, Fon­taine will act as a con­sul­tant to help get the judg­ment en­forced and in re­turn will have his ex­penses paid and get a cut of the mas­sive set­tle­ment.

So of course he will mod­er­ate some ses­sions at the con­fer­ence and will speak at oth­ers.

He’s also speak­ing be­cause his part­ner, Kath­leen Ma­honey, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­gary, is one of the or­ga­niz­ers ac­cord­ing to the con­fer­ence web­site.

Ma­honey wrote to Donziger of­fer­ing to set up the con­fer­ence to “bring sig­nif­i­cant pressure to bear on Chevron” in or­der to get a set­tle­ment.

Part of the strat­egy that Donziger is us­ing to get his cor­rupt Ecuado­rian judg­ment en­forced is bring le­gal ac­tions in other coun­tries in­clud­ing Canada that Chevron op­er­ates in and try to use that to ex­tract money or freeze as­sets.

Thus the in­ter­est in Canada, the con­tract for Fon­taine and one would as­sume the of­fer by Fon­taine’s part­ner Ma­honey to or­ga­nize a con­fer­ence.

Could it be she might see ben­e­fits from Phil scor­ing a mega pay­day?

Hir­ing Phil Fon­taine was a smart move. He has a great rep­u­ta­tion and as a First Na­tions leader won’t be ques­tioned by many in the me­dia on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

It also fol­lows a pat­tern, one we have seen be­fore, laid out in de­tail when a group of Amer­i­can bil­lion­aires laid out a plan to shut down Canada’s oil in­dus­try. Part­ner with lo­cal NGOs but more im­por­tantly, find an Indige­nous per­son to be the face of the protest.

Too bad this protest is over a cor­rupt court rul­ing.

Since 2015, Chevron Canada has been fight­ing Donziger and his al­lied lawyers and so­cial jus­tice war­riors in court against a for­eign court rul­ing found to have been ob­tained by fraud and bribery.

Canada’s courts should throw out any fur­ther cases on this file and make clear this judg­ment won’t be en­forced.

As for Trudeau’s govern­ment giv­ing this case money and le­git­i­macy by spon­sor­ing it — it’s par for the course with him.

RO­DRIGO BUEN­DIA/ GETTY IM­AGES

Don­ald Mon­cayo, Ecuadorean ac­tivist of the Ama­zo­nia De­fense Front, in­set, shows waste oil at Aguarico 4 oil well, near La Pri­mav­era, Su­cumbios province, 45 km south of Lago Agrio, in the Ecuadorean Ama­zo­nia in this 2011 photo. A court in Ecuador has up­held a 2011 rul­ing re­quir­ing U.S. oil gi­ant Chevron to pay $9.5 bil­lion for en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age in the Ama­zon rain­for­est.

WA­TERS Pink Floyd

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