Beaver Lake Cree February 2019 Hearing: Awaiting Court Decision

11 April 2019; originally published March 8, 2019 by Ana Simeon, RAVEN Trust

It was an emotional moment. The morning of February 19th, Beaver Lake Cree elders and community  members crowded into a packed courtroom, having risen before dawn to make the 3-hour journey from Lac La Biche to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton. The sense of expectancy was palpable: after waiting for so many years, thwarted by Canada and Alberta at every step, would they finally receive justice?

Throughout the hearing, the court heard affidavit evidence from 10 band members. In submission after submission, Beaver Lake Cree people expressed many painful losses. Elders, knowledge keepers and community members described how, due to unchecked industry, they are no longer able to meaningfully exercise the way of life and culture that was promised to them under Treaty 6. They spoke of the broken promises reflected in the 19,000+ Crown authorizations for tar sands and other industrial development in their territory.

Loss of caribou, pollution of water, fragmentation of culture: over three long days, Beaver Lake Cree witnesses spoke of the tragic consequences of neglected treaty rights in northern Alberta.

It was inspiring to see the resilience of this community that travelled for hours to have their presence felt. Youth sat front and centre, attentively listening and watching the colonial system in action. Elders struggled to hear but seemed to find humour in the evidence; specifically at claims from the province that Beaver Lake does not live in poverty.

Part of what was being debated at the hearing is whether the issues raised by the Beaver Lake Cree are of national importance. Of course, we think that they are: this is a case that goes to the heart of what Canada’s responsibility to uphold the treaties really means. In particular, the case — known as The Tar Sands Trial —  addresses questions about whether Treaty 6 (and all the Numbered Treaties) assures Indigenous Peoples of a way of life, and whether there should be  limits to how much land and resources the Crown can take up, as allowed in the agreement, before the Treaty is infringed.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government denies that the rights asserted by the Beaver Lake Cree even exist. The Crown denies that treaty infringement has taken place. For these hearings, a whole suite of Department of Justice lawyers has been tasked to challenge an under-resourced First Nation’s attempts to secure the funding it needs to go to trial.

“Canada’s position in Court stands in stark contrast to the high-level promises of the Trudeau government to promote reconciliation and to listen to Indigenous people,” says MKarey Brooks, legal counsel for Beaver Lake Cree. “Without this case, and the advanced funding order, these critically important issues will not get resolved.”

It is important to remember that reconciliation has a specific meaning in law: it is about forcing Crown sovereignty to take account with and be reconciled with the pre-existing rights of Indigenous Peoples, reflecting the prior use and occupation of land and resources. The  issues being brought forward by the Beaver Lake Cree are deeply significant for First Nations across the country – and for all Canadians who care about acting honourably and setting right our relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

That’s why we recognize that this small Nation should not have to foot the bill for this fight on their own.

At RAVEN, we are used to quick and nimble fundraising campaigns in support of rapid-response Indigenous legal challenges to pipeline and mining projects. The Beaver Lake Cree case has been different – it’s been legally complex, fiercely denied by Canada and Alberta, lengthy and drawn out.  It’s hard to believe, but the Nation has been championing their treaty rights for more than a decade!

We’re amazed and humbled by that commitment and staying power.  We applaud Beaver Lake Cree leadership for standing up again and again to demand justice. They do so strengthened in the knowledge that so many donors like yourself are at their backs. The wave of support from all across the country this fall and winter has been incredible – we’ve raised $246,000 and counting, more than 90% of it from people organizing, fundraising, and donating to see justice done. Please accept our most heartfelt gratitude.

We couldn’t have done this without movement allies, such as Equiterre, the Leap, and Climate Justice Edmonton, along with online fundraisers who have reached out to family and friends for support  for the Beaver Lake Cree.

As we all wait for the court decision, know that you are doing your part to defend the spirit of the Treaties, and to forge a new way forward for this country that upholds the rights of  the Indigenous Peoples who have stewarded the land, air and water since time immemorial. It is our honour to be standing with you.

With gratitude, Laurie, Ana and the whole RAVEN team

Link to Facebook Live Events here.

See You in Court Shell!

FOE Netherlands submits legal summons in historic climate case against Shell.

The Hague, April 5, 2019 – Today Friends of the Earth Netherlands will deliver a court summons to Shell to legally compel the company to cease its destruction of the climate, on behalf of more than 30,000 people from 70 countries. A 236 pagecomplaint will be delivered to Shells International Headquarters in the Hague this afternoon by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, ActionAid NL, Both ENDS, FossielvrijNL, Greenpeace NL,YoungFriends of the Earth NL, Waddenverenigingand a group of 500 co-plaintiffs. 

Donald Pols, Director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said, “Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas. They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening.”

In the court summons, Friends of the Earth Netherlands outlines why it is bringing this groundbreaking climate litigation case against Shell, highlighting the company’s early knowledge of climate change and its own role in causing it. Despite acknowledging that the fossil fuel industry has a responsibility to act on climate change, and claiming to “strongly support” the Paris Agreement, Shell continues to lobby against climate policy and to invest billions in further oil and gas extraction.

This is incompatible with global climate goals. 

The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, a key piece of evidence in this case, underlines the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees for the protection of ecosystems and human lives, and outlines the devastating and potentially irreversible impacts of any “extra bit of warming”.

The court summons proves that Shell’s current climate ambitions do not guarantee any emissions reductions, but would, in fact, contribute to a huge overshoot of 1.5 degrees of global warming. The plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating its duty of care and threatening human rights by knowingly undermining the world’s chances to stay below 1.5C.

In addition, the plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to life and the right to family life. In the historic Urgenda case against the Dutch state, the Dutch Appeals court created a precedent by ruling that a failure to achieve climate goals leads to human rights violations.

The court ordered the Dutch state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020.

Roger Cox, who initially represented Urgenda, is now leading Friends of the Earth’s case against Shell. Roger said, “If successful, the uniqueness of the case would be that Shell, as one of the largest multinational corporations in the world would be legally obligated to change its business operations. We also expect that this would have an effect onother fossil fuel companies, raising the pressure on them to change.”

If successful, the court case would rule that Shell must reduce its CO2emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with Climate Paris Accord. This would have major implications, requiring Shell to move away from fossil fuels.  

Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy campaigner Sara Shaw said, “In leaked company documents from the 1990s Shell predicted that environmental organizations would start suing the company for causing climate change, if it did not listen to the warnings of its own scientists. Well, that day has come. This rising tide of climate litigation will finally call climate wrecking corporations like Shell to account and stop them in their tracks.”

Several lawsuits holding polluting companies to account for contributing to climate change exist globally. In 2016 a Peruvian farmer filed a lawsuit suing German coal company RWE for its contribution to glacier melt. In 2017 several American cities and states started climate cases against Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron. 

Media contacts:

Lowie Kok, Friends of the Earth Netherlands
 landline: +31 (0) 20 550 7333
 mobile: +31 (0) 63 4930173

Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International; +44 (0)7974 008 270; press@foei.org

For general media enquiries:

Amelia Collinspress; [at]foei.org; +447740979709

Last year Friends of the Earth Netherlands launched the climate case with a liability statement sent to Shell: 
 Legal letter to Shell Wednesday 4 April 2018
 https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Milieudefensie_legal_letter_Shell_4-April-2018.pdf 

Shell’s response to legal letter 28 May 2018https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Royal-Dutch-Shell-plc_legal_response_28-May-218.pdf 

Shell rejects climate demands forcing court action Press release: 29 May 2018
 https://www.foei.org/news/shell-climate-demands-court-action 

Shell faces historic legal action in the Netherlands for its failure to act on climate change. Press release 4 April 2018: https://www.foei.org/press/shell-legal-action-netherlands-climate-change
 

About Friends of the Earth International:

Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 75 national member groups and some two million members and supporters around the world.

We challenge the current model of economic and corporate globalisation, and promote solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies: www.foei.org

At The Crowd Versus, we support Friends of the Earth International in their endeavors to bring this climate case. We will post their important updates in our News feed.

Largest #ClimateStrike held by students world-wide on 15 March 2019

21 March 2019

Young adults speak out for their future to hold adults accountable for #climatechange

The school strike held by students, around the entire world, this past Friday on the Ides of March, was the largest to date.

Young adults protested to demand that politicians craft better climate oriented policies, for their future. Students gathered to protest what the adults have, in their eyes, abused from previous (business) actions and privileges to take materials and produce, without regard for the consequences for future generations.

Over time, these adults actions and (business) policy decisions contributed to the growth of carbon dioxide emissions which in turn contribute to a generally higher median temperature of the earth, as shown by scientific research by NASA.

This “demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (From a statement of 18 world-wide scientific organizations, in 2009).

An increase can definitely be measured with human activity as the main driver of the increase. The earth has been through climactic changes in the past.

This one is unprecedented due in part to the earth’s past history of stabilization, around the past 2,000 years.

There exists scientific consensus upon scientific consensus, and that scenarios and possibilities exist to halt this increase by changing human interactions.

Students are taking matters into their own hands, under the leadership of Greta Thunberg, who stood up every Friday to protest and to hold adults accountable, initially all by herself.

The United Nations invited her to speak and she did so with furore, as you can see and hear here on YouTube.

From fridaysforfuture.org: https://www.dw.com/en/fridays-for-future-students-hold-international-climate-change-protests/a-47927393

We fully support the students in their endeavors to effect proper change in this ever-changing world.

You can support them by supporting the environmental human cases now pending, which have sometimes taken over 25 years to arrive at a level where they can have a world-wide impact.

For instance, the Chevron v. Ecuador case has taken over 26 years to now stand in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, on the very basic issue of whether human rights trump corporate privileges on a global scale.

You can also become an (online) activist by using your favorite activity to promote awareness for these cases here.

Because when we stand together, we stand stronger!

A UN Treaty to Reduce Corporate Impunity Advantages

4 March 2019

OPINION: A promising negotiation is taking place at the UN Human Rights Council. A legally binding treaty on business and human rights could give victims transnational corporations’ malpractice a lot more power to pursue the justice they deserve. The EEB is stepping up its efforts to make the most of this opportunity to achieve environmental justice globally.

By Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

Photo credit: By Henry Mühlpfordt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1993, Ecuadorian citizens sued Texaco (that became Chevron) for leaving behind a massive amount of deadly pollution from decades of oil operations in the Amazon Rainforest. Twenty years and an unprecedented legal ordeal later, Ecuador’s Supreme Court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion to clean up. Chevron refuses and instead paid a vast army of lawyers and PR firms to sue the victim’s lawyers and discredit them and Ecuador’s Supreme Court. The EEB crowdfunded for the lawyers who defend the 30.000 Ecuadorean plaintiffs. They are still proceeding the case in Canada. 26 years after opening a court case that they won at the highest level six years ago, the victims still face massive pollution problems and corporate impunity.

This case explains why it was Ecuador who took a bold initiative. In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution drafted by Ecuador and South Africa. An open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights, chaired by Ecuador, was established. After three sessions in 2015, 2016 and 2017, a ‘zero draft’ of this new legally binding treaty on business and human rights was presented.

The EEB has written to the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to comment on the draft. Francesca Carlsson, Legal officer for the EEB:

“We regret that that there is no mention of the need to protect Human Rights and Environmental defenders and journalists from abuse, harassment, criminalization and harm. It is often thanks to the work of defenders and the media that victims are able to organize themselves to claim their rights. There should be dissuasive measures on corporations and governments that use methods to silence defenders.”

In the past decade, the number of environmental defenders killed, often on the order of or by the transnational corporations that this treaty tries to regulate, has gone from one a week to four a week.

Carlsson also said that in order to truly have justice for victims, “it is important that they are given the opportunity to ask the courts for injunctive measures, including relief.” She also listed a list of positive elements in the draft that should not get compromised in further negotiation stages. The draft of this treaty attempts to widen the scope of jurisdiction for victims, allowing them to benefit from the most protective legislation. Multinational corporations already have the means to benefit from “forum shopping”, picking the countries with the legislation most favorable for their case.

The legally binding treaty on business and human rights is a promising initiative that could seriously improve global environmental justice. That is sorely needed, given the fast-rising global environmental justice movement, which is linked to the ever increasing amount of environmental conflicts, which the EEB also helps to map in the Atlas of Environmental Justice. The treaty is also a direct opposite of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms adopted in trade deals, as they expand the powers of transnational corporations. The EEB is one of 100s of organizations behind an European campaign that calls for rights for people and rules for corporations. Aside from stopping ISDS, the organizations behind this campaign want the EU to fully engage with the UN Treaty on business and human rights.

You can join the more than 500.000 Europeans who support this campaign here.

Originally published by Nick Meynen at metamag.org, link here