VW seeks to seal emis­sions probe

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - MIA RAB­SON

OTTAWA — The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has re­fused to pro­vide records show­ing the scope of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Volk­swa­gen emis­sions-dup­ing scan­dal in Canada and the Ger­man au­tomaker is now seek­ing a le­gal or­der to keep those records con­fi­den­tial.

In Septem­ber 2015, Volk­swa­gen ad­mit­ted it had in­stalled soft­ware on 11 mil­lion diesel-en­gine ve­hi­cles de­signed to dupe emis­sions-test­ing equip­ment into think­ing the cars were emit­ting less green­house gases than they ac­tu­ally were.

About 105,000 of those cars were sold in Canada and En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Canada has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the com­pany here for more than two years now.

En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence and Cana­dian Physi­cians for the En­vi­ron­ment are frus­trated by the slow progress of the Cana­dian probe and filed a law­suit over the sum­mer to try and force the gov­ern­ment to com­plete those in­ves­ti­ga­tions. As part of the law­suit, the groups re­quested all ma­te­rial from the cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tion be handed over. The gov­ern­ment re­fused.

Last week, Volk­swa­gen filed a mo­tion re­quest­ing in­ter­vener sta­tus in the case, ask­ing the court to pro­tect its con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion, and say­ing the com­pany pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to En­vi­ron­ment Canada “with an ex­pec­ta­tion of con­fi­den­tial­ity.” The en­vi­ron­men­tal groups asked En­vi­ron­ment Canada to look into four spe­cific things: did Volk­swa­gen im­port cars which vi­o­lated Canada’s emis­sions re­quire­ments? Did it ap­ply the na­tional emis­sions mark on cars that didn’t meet the stan­dards and then sell those cars? Did it lie about it? Did it re­sume sales ear­lier this year of mod­els that still don’t meet Cana­dian emis­sions stan­dards?

En­vi­ron­ment Canada says it was al­ready in­ves­ti­gat­ing the first three items and did agree to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fourth.

An of­fi­cial from the depart­ment told The Cana­dian Press last week it is not un­usual for com­plex in­ves­ti­ga­tions to take this much time.

An of­fi­cial speak­ing on back­ground last week said it will be many more months be­fore the Cana­dian probe is fin­ished.

In its own news re­lease is­sued in Septem­ber 2015, when the in­ves­ti­ga­tions were first launched, En­vi­ron­ment Canada said emis­sions-test­ing de­feat­ing soft­ware is il­le­gal in Canada.

Doc­u­ments also re­cently showed Canada had done some test­ing on the 3.0-litre diesel-en­gine ve­hi­cles it­self and shared that in­for­ma­tion with the United States, which used it to go af­ter the au­tomaker there.

Volk­swa­gen pleaded guilty in U.S. court last March to de­fraud­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment by sell­ing ve­hi­cles it knew didn’t meet U.S. emis­sions stan­dards for diesel-en­gines.

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