Browsing Category 'Environment'

Canadians exposing Chevron’s dirty hand

by Pragash Pio and Denise Cordova

On March 13, 2014, the Committee in solidarity with those affected by Chevron in Ecuador organized a forum “Exposing the Dirty Hand of Chevron,” as a part of a wider awareness campaign.

Students of the University of Toronto exposing Chevron's Dirty Hand.   CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

Students of the University of Toronto exposing Chevron’s Dirty Hand. CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

For the past 20 years Ecuadorian indigenous and peasant communities have been fighting a legal battle against the oil giant Chevron for what is the largest environmental oil-related crime of our time that has been left behind in the Ecuadorian rainforest. In 2012 Chevron was sentenced to pay damages of US$ 9.5 billion. However, the corporation no longer has any assets in Ecuador to be seized.

Therefore, in order to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment to indemnify and compensate the victims and survivors of the contamination left in Ecuador by Chevron, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in December 2013 that Ecuadorian indigenous communities have the right to pursue all of Chevron’s assets in Canada.

Justice James MacPherson of the Court of Appeal for Ontario said that: “Chevron’s wish is granted. After all these years, the Ecuadorian plaintiffs deserve to have the recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment heard on the merits in the appropriate jurisdiction. At this juncture, Ontario is that jurisdiction.”

Given that the legal battle against Chevron now continues here in Canada,  several organizations and collectives in Toronto saw the need to create a Solidarity Network with the affected communities in Ecuador by Chevron.

During their initial meeting, held on January 16, 2014, they gathered to denounce the pollution that Chevron left in Ecuador and the serious impact this has had on the health of the indigenous and peasants living in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Participants also expressed their support in the struggle of the Ecuadorian government of President Rafael Correa to win a measure of justice in the courts and media against the powerful U.S. Corporation.

“How can it be possible that Chevron, colluding with a private arbitration centre, wants to make the Ecuadorian government responsible for paying the judgment of US$9.5 billion to the affected communities?” asked Janis Mills, a Canadian academic and activist.

In an effort to create awareness in Canada around this issue, the committee has organized various screenings, events and information series.

Nicole Oliver, who participated at one of these events, noted that “The battle against oil corporations is also happening here in Canada. For example, theUnist’ot’en are currently battling against Chevron and other companies in resistance to the Pacific Trails’ Pipeline in northern B.C. over unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.” Oliver also stressed that “we think that peoples from Canada and Ecuador have similar problems, in many cases, facing the same threats, such as corporations and Canadian companies, that put profit first over the common good. In this context we think that affected communities can learn and support each other beyond borders.”

Brendan Morrison, Canadian lawyer representing the victims of Chevron in Canada.    CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

Brendan Morrison, Canadian lawyer representing the victims of Chevron in Canada. CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

On March 13th, 2014 a forum was held at the University of Toronto with Brendan Morrison, Canadian lawyer representing the victims of Chevron in Canada, and Santiago Escobar, a human rights activist who has exposed and denounced the crimes of Chevron in the courts of both Ecuador and North America.

The forum began with the screening of a documentary on the crimes of Chevron, describing the hard evidence being used to legally challenge and sue the U.S. corporation for its chemical pollution. The screening described how Chevron’s pollution was the source of the rising epidemic of cancer and other health-related issues appearing for the first time throughout the Ecuadorian rain forest.

Brendan Morrison gave an overview of the legal battle during which he quoted Chevron’s spokesman’s declaration that the oil corporation “will fight [any legal challenge] until hell freezes over” and then “fight it out on the ice”.

“Chevron keeps refusing to accept responsibility for the environmental damage caused in the Ecuadorian Amazon, which as a result has generated high levels of cancer, abortions and various health problems among people living in areas contaminated by Chevron. It is time for this corporation to take responsibility,” said Toronto activist, Megan Kinch.

Santiago Escobar showed further fraud with proof of payments made by Chevron to Borja Diego Sanchez (known as “Chevron’s dirty tricks guy”) describing the collusion between the two. According to documents from Chevron,  which emerged during Borja’s deposition in the U.S., Borja received over two million dollars in support to create propaganda for Chevron; ranging from use and payment of Chevron’s attorneys; a salary of ten thousand dollars; funding for his travels, among other various expenses.

Santiago Escobar a Human Rights activist who has denounced the crimes of Chevron. CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

Santiago Escobar a Human Rights activist who has denounced the crimes of Chevron. CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

“Chevron’s dirty tricks guy” first became known in September 2009, when Chevron used some videos he produced in which among other things, he created the impression that the judge proceeding the legal case of the affected communities against Chevron was being bribed. Chevron used these videos to accuse the government of Ecuador of inventing a false legal case for political reasons.

The forum came to an end with a photo exhibition documenting environmental damage caused by Chevron. All the participants created hand prints with black paint on canvas as a symbolic protest against Chevrons’ poisoning of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

On March 18th, at the University of Toronto, the Youth Communist League organized a Forum on Ecuador vs. Chevron, and Report-back from the World Festival of Youth and Students that was held last December 2013 in Quito, Ecuador.

Currently, several organizations and alliances in Canada are backing the Indigenous plaintiffs in Ecuador, including the Canadian and Quebec sections of the International League of People’s Struggles; the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front;  La Red de Amigos de la Revolución Ciudadana; Hispanic Centre of York and Barrio Nuevo.

The Committee in Solidarity with those Affected by Chevron in Ecuador is comprised of people committed to social and environmental justice. If you want to join the cause, write to: or follow them on :


Students of the University of Toronto exposing Chevron's Dirty Hand.   CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

Students of the University of Toronto exposing Chevron’s Dirty Hand. CAMILA URIBE-ROSALES, BASICS.

Baffin Region Mayors Oppose Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration

Nunavut Mayors’ Forum Passes Motion Opposing Seismic Surveys

by Warren Bernauer

The mayors of Nunavut’s Qikiqtani (Baffin) region passed a motion opposing offshore oil and gas exploration at the 2014 Baffin Mayors’ Forum. The motion was passed unanimously, with all thirteen mayors of the region voting in favour.

The motion states, “the people have expressed concerns of the [oil and gas] activities that can have adverse affects on the ecology of our offshore region, and our hunter gatherer society”.

“The Mayors of Baffin Island are opposed to oil & gas activity, including seismic testing in Davis Strait & Baffin Bay until such time when our concerns have been met and Inuit can be full participants of such activity.” Read more…

I Hope Neil Young Will Remember: Don’t Play Apartheid Israel!

by Jordy Cummings

In May 1970, National Guardsmen in the U.S. were called in to respond to a highly militant anti-war protests taking place at Kent State University in Ohio.  The protests were an immediate, emergency response to then President Richard Nixon “spreading the war” from Vietnam itself into Cambodia.  On May 4, these armed instruments of state power used the same weapons used against the Vietnamese revolution, and opened fire, killing four protesters.

Within a few weeks, Neil Young, with his on again/off again bandmates, Crosby, Stills and Nash, were in the recording studio recording a response which was on the radio within four days.  The song explicitly situated itself as coming from “the movement” at a time when millions of Americans believed they were on the cusp of revolution at home.  The governor of Ohio felt the same way, calling the protesters violent revolutionaries, and proclaiming that “these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They’re worse than the brown shirts and the communist element and also the night riders and the vigilantes.”

“Ohio”, the sparse and angry song recorded that day wasn’t your typical protest anthem. It was neither a preachy message song or a simple pacifist chant that reduced the movement to giving “peace a chance”. Instead, it seethed about “tin soldiers” who had caused the four dead. Instead of giving peace a chance, it made the unambiguous plea “gotta get down to it, soldiers are cutting us down..should have been done long ago”. What should have been done, it seems, was revolution.   Moving from the general to particular, it then addresses its listener, “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground, how can you run when you know”?

Just as Neil Young did the right thing about the anti-war movement, he has the opportunity to do so on an issue at least as important.  With that in mind, I’d like to turn the questions that Mr. Young raised in “Ohio” back onto Mr. Young.  Mr. Young , think of the Palestinian people killed by Israeli weapons or the quiet weapon of starvation and open-air prisons.  What if you knew them?  How can you run when you know?  Let us not forget the treatment of Africans by the Israeli state, migrant workers who have been as of late agitating for their rights. Israel’s racist attitudes, far right hate groups and mounting detentions against Africans is not dissimilar to  that of the “Southern Man” that Mr. Young inveighed against not too long after recording “Ohio”.  Would Neil be “Rocking in the Free World” by playing Israel? Is this in the interests of the dispossessed “patch of ground people”, or the interests of “Vampires” that “Sell you twenty barrels worth”.

Neil Young speaking at a press conference for the “Honour the Treaties” tour, a series benefit concerts that were held to raise money for legal fight against the expansion of the Athabasca oilsands in northern Alberta and other similar projects, in Toronto, Sunday January 12, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)

Even very recently, Young has proven himself to be on the correct side of the question of the day’s most pressing issues.  Young has been a lifelong supporter of indigenous struggles, not merely in the form of his songs, like Pocahontas, but in his actions, most recently in his “Respect the Treaties” tour and publicity event.  For this sin against Canadian interests, Neil Young was attacked in the corporate media and even by the Prime Minister’s office. This was perhaps one of  the most effective political interventions made by a cultural icon in Canada in recent years, and at least so far as I remember. The Two Row Times praised Young’s integrity, calling him  “a deeply spiritual man with the heart of a prophet, who has pointed the way to the future for nearly three generations of young people.” Neil Young seemed to be the Anti-Bono. As opposed to palling around with George W. Bush and Bill Gates, ostensibly in the service of helping “poor Africans”, Young has taken the lead in what is one of the most important and pressing issues within Canada’s borders.

It is for this reason, more than any, that progressives must demand that Mr. Young cancel his concerts in Apartheid Israel this summer . How can Neil maintain this deeply felt and deserved reputation, as a craftsman, a guitar visionary, a wise man, if he were to betray every principle that culminated in his recent interventions?

It is not unlikely that Mr. Young is aware of the calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.  From Gil Scott Heron to Elvis Costello, progressive musicians – and even those not necessarily known for their politics (the Pixies, Annie Lennox, Massive Attack) – have responded to the call by cancelling and/or not booking shows in Israel.  Perhaps Neil Young has been informed – even by the people with whom he just concluded a tour – that there were those calling for him to show his principles, and perhaps his attitude is that it would be hypocritical for him to play Toronto and then not play Tel Aviv.  Yet there has not been a call from indigenous communities in Canada for a cultural boycott of Toronto.  There is, however, a standing call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

Neil Young has sang that he is “proud to be a union man”, a member of the American Federation of Musicians. He should realize, then, that the Palestinian labour movement has explicitly called for a cultural boycott.  Mr. Young – I know that it may be annoying that you are being addressed after the fashion of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s denunciation of you, but if the shoe fits… But please, “how can you run when you know?”

We all hope you do the right thing, Mr. Young.

Legal Ruling Will Allow Rain Forest Indigenous Peoples to Pursue Chevron in Canada

Ontario Court of Appeal says communities of Ecuador affected by Chevron can enforce Ecuadorian rulings in Canada

by Santiago Escobar

As the Unist’ot’en continue their protracted battle against Chevron and other companies in resistance to the Pacific Trails Pipeline in northern B.C. over unceded Wet’suwet’en territory, Indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador are pursuing Chevron in Canada for damages in one of the largest oil-related catastrophes in history.

This past December 2013, after twenty years of legal battles with America’s third largest corporation – ranking 11th in the world – the 30,000+ Indigenous plaintiffs of Ecuador made a small step forward when an Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that they could pursue Chevonr for damages they were awarded in the Ecuadorian courts.  But the battle is far from over.

Read more…

Ontario’s shale-gas: The next ‘fracking’ frontier?

These shale deposits were highlighted in a 2010-2011 report from the Ontario Environmental Commissioner.

by Steve da Silva

With the consciousness of people in Canada taken up a notch on the issue of “fracking” by the Mi’kmaq-led resistance in New Brunswick, it’s only a matter of time before people’s sights and struggles shift to the next major shale-gas frontier: Ontario. The US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013 that there were 573 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in Canada.

“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is the process by which oil is withdrawn from harder to access sources by blasting water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock formations.

High gas prices have opened the way for the oil industry to push fossil fuel exploitation into the realm of more difficult to reach fossils fuels, what are known as “the unconventionals”: tar sands, shale-gas, and deep-water oil wells.

Most people in Ontario are unaware that a Canadian oil firm out of Alberta has for years been acquiring land rights across southwestern Ontario, in order to explore and drill the extensive shale-gas deposits in the province. Although up-to-date information on its operations are scarce, by 2011 Mooncor Oil and Gas Corp. already owned some 20,000 acres of land in Chatham-Kent and Lambton County, in southwestern Ontario.

In Ontario, geologists have broken down shale-gas deposits into three major zones: the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale; the Collingwood-Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale; and the northernmost limit of the Marcellus Shale that extends up from Pennsylvania and New York State.

While Ontario shale-gas exploration is reported to have not yet used the fracking method, the even greater danger of tapping shale-gas is the planetary danger posed by carbon emissions through new fossil fuel exploitation.  Although natural gas emits half the greenhouse gas that coal gives off, most of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be exploited without initiating irreversible levels of climate change.


by Steve da Silva – Co-produced with Two Row Times

The verdict couldn’t be clearer: we are destroying and degrading the Ocean at a pace not even anticipated by the experts just two years ago.

This is the forecast of the Global State of the Oceans Report, by a body of the  world’s leading marine scientists along with international marine governance officials.  The report takes a holistic, “earth systems” approach to studying the state of the oceans, as opposed to artificially isolating problems into specific locales or species.

The ocean makes up one of the primary systems in Earth’s overall ecological system, and the report acknowledges that its role as an overall regulator is being compromised by human activity.


Oil spills like BP’s Deepwater Horizon are actually just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to the destruction and degradation of the Ocean. Global warming and CO2 emissions actually pose the greater threat – which, ultimately, comes back to a fossil fuel-driven economy.

The report warns, “the window of opportunity to take action is narrow. There is little time left in which we can still act to prevent irreversible, catastrophic changes to marine ecosystems as we see them today.”

Many may think that the most immediate threats to the ocean are coming from industrial pollutants and overfishing – which are indeed major problems.  The 80-90 million tons of fish caught every year is rapidly depleting fish stocks and the larger food webs they are a part of.  Meanwhile, pollutants from profit-driven industrial activities and agricultural run-off are depleting the oxygen levels in in the ocean and creating large “dead zones”.

Yet, the greatest threat of all to the Ocean’s role in the earth system is climate change.  As carbon emissions rise, so too is the extent to which they are absorbed by the ocean, which is leading to ocean acidification with disastrous consequences for marine life.

Yet, while the writing on the wall spells out Earth-system collapse if drastic changes are not made to our economy’s relationship to the Earth, the report falls short of putting forward the radical solutions needed, pointing instead in the direction of policy actions within the same economic system. It comes as little surprise, given the reports main audience are “policy makers,” which is to say mostly people invested in the status quo.


This image from the NASA Earth Observatory shows zones in the ocean where oxygen levels have dropped so low that these have become complete “dead zones”. However, the zones marked here should lead one to believe that ocean transformation is limited to these places. As the Oceans Report indicates, the entire Ocean as a system and connected to the Earth System are threatened.

The report concludes that “Without decisive and effective action, no region or country will be immune from the socioeconomic upheaval and environmental catastrophe that will take place – possibly within the span of the current generation and certainly by the end of the century. It is likely to be a disaster that challenges human civilisation.”

Activist being arrested at occupation of Enbridge Pumping Station north of Hamilton (

Activist being arrested at occupation of Enbridge Pumping Station north of Hamilton (

by Kitchener-Waterloo BASICS

In an attempt to reverse the flow of highly-corrosive tar sands bitumen through the Haldimand Tract (Six Nations land), the Calgary-based oil company Enbridge is using the ageing Line 9 pipeline. The company is moving forward without the consent from the indigenous peoples whose way of life is directly threatened by the pipeline which has been built on the land where they live.

The danger with pumping is that bitumen is an unprocessed tar sands oil that is mixed with a highly-corrosive natural-gas liquid, and needs to be pumped at a higher temperature and pressure due to its viscosity. As a result, this puts a heavy strain on the aging 38-year-old pipeline. Pumping this oil also comes with a lot of waste that is pumped back into the Athabasca River system, which has an extremely negative effect on the surrounding environment.

Over the years, Enbridge has been dangerously careless when pumping tar sands oil through their pipelines. Between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge has reportedly been responsible for at least 800 spills (approximately 7 million gallons of heavy crude oil). One of the most devastating examples is the 2010 Line 6B spill in the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. The effects of that spill were massive, and three years and almost one billion dollars later, the spill is still not completely cleaned up. Both Line 9 and 6B were built to transport conventional crude oil, not bitumen.

KW is showing resistance through a coalition of broad-based community organizations who oppose the proposal of the reversal of tar sands oil. Malcolm of Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance said, “there was an occupation of the Enbridge Westover pumping station on Beverly Swamp, resulting in delaying the reversal through the area. This inspired people to take action in their own communities. This dirty tar sands oil not only puts people at risk, but also wildlife in the environment as well”.

“Here in Kitchener we have put forward a declaration and used it as a tool to get support from the community. By having info nights, lobbying, and organizing around this declaration, we hope to pressure the council to oppose this attack on our communities,” says Joe Campbell, community organizer.

KW organizers believe that we as a community need to work in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of this land to stop the reversal of the tar sands oil through this land before it’s too late and we have our own Kalamazoo on our hands. For more information, you can visit

1385 From REZ LIFE Facebook user

by Steve da Silva – Co-produced with Two Row Times


Chief Aaron Sock (center, button-up shirt) of the Elsipogtog First Nation flanked by warriors and protesters after declaring that his community is reclaiming all unoccupied Crown Lands, which comprise much of modern day New Brunswick. Photo Credt: Miles Howe of the Halifax Media Coop.

After months of arrests and mounting resistance against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick on Mi’kmaq territory, the anti-fracking movement upped the ante this past week with a fresh blockade and a proclamation of a massive land reclamation, which has forced conservative New Brunswick Premier David Alward to a negotiation table with representatives of the anti-fracking movement.

A day after the September 30 blockade was established on Route 134 that blocked the entrance to an equipment storage site of SWN Resources Canada, Chief Aaron Sock, speaking for Chief and Council of the Elsipogtog First Nation, announced a sweeping Mi’kmaq land reclamation effective immediately.

“Harper and the Conservative government have lifted restrictions to environmental protections of our lands and water” and “the provincial government is turning over all lands… to a corporation for their own benefit… we have lost confidence in governments for the safekeeping of our lands.”

Sock added that “our notice of eviction has been completely ignored by the Provincial government and Southwest Energy, and… we have been compelled to act to save our water, land and animals from ruin.”

“Let it be known to all the we as the chief and council of Elsipogtog are reclaiming all unoccupied reserve lands… We have been instructed by our people that they are ready, willing, and able to go out and stake their own claims on all unoccupied lands for their own use and benefit.”

The October 1 announcement, which came on their Treaty Day, was read at the blockade site to an exuberant crowd of hundreds who gathered from across Kent County and beyond.

1385 From REZ LIFE Facebook userThe New Brunswick government has been allowing SWN Resources to explore some 2.5 million acres of lands for the purpose of shale gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. Fracking involves drilling deep wells that fracture shale rock beds and requires the pumping of millions of gallons of pressurized fresh water and toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins, into a well to force the gas out. However, the provincial government’s case for hydraulic fracturing took a huge blow this past September when Louis LaPierre, the researcher at the New Brunswick Energy Institute who wrote the report encouraging the government to proceed with gas exploitation, was discovered to have lied for decades about having a PhD in Ecology.

On Wednesday, October 2, a new Brunswick court issued an injunction against the blockade at the request of SWN, which is enforceable until October 12, 2013.  But the papers have yet to be served by the RCMP, and Miles Howe of the Halifax Media Co-op has reported that the RCMP would not enforce an injunction until dialogue with the Premiere had ceased.

On Sunday, October 5 Premier Alward and three members of his cabinet met with and the Elsipogtog chief and 15 representatives of the protesters for three hours in a Moncton hotel, with negotiations continuing in Fredericton as of Monday.  The delegation reportedly excluded the  Mi’kmaq Warriors Society, who Alward would not meet with, and who have reportedly been the main and most visible force at the blockade. The Warriors are independent of the Chief and Council.

Two Row Times asked Elsipogtog counsellor Robert Levi whether the negotiations that had opened up related to the blockade or the larger land reclamation, and Levi told us that “I think the [reclamation] is a larger issue that will take on a life of its own. But since we have an injunction hanging over our heads, this is what needs to be resolved right now, since we want a peaceful resolution to the blockade and for no one to get hurt.”

On October 7, the Mi’kmaq Warriors Society took their own initiative and hand-delivered a letter (via a Houston-based environmentalist group) to SWN Resources reading, “all projects, leases, and permits issued to SWN Resources by the Government [of New Brunswick] come to a halt until all Mi’kmaq-L’nu, and Wabanaki communities, as sovereign individuals are Meaningfully Consulted, and that we are able to come to an informed decision as individuals.”

new-brunswick-frack-off-rallyAll the while, the Acadian presence in the anti-fracking movement and at the most recent blockade has also been quite strong, which many see as a welcome development between the two communities.  Fourteen years ago, the crisis of Burnt Church unfolded 100 km to the north, where non-native fishers destroyed thousands of Mi’kmaq lobster traps to protest native fishing rights, which was followed by violent confrontations.  However, Acadians and Mi’kmaq have also had strong of unity against a common oppressor in the region’s history.  After the mass expulsion of the French-speaking Acadian people by the British in 1755, the remaining Acadians and the Mi’kmaq made a treaty that saw the two peoples unite in a guerilla war against the British that led to the 1757 defeat of a British detachment in 1757 in  the Battle of Bloody Creek.


Cold Lake being emptied by oil company to contain bitumen leaks

by Steve da Silva – Produced for & BASICS Community News Service

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is now taking drastic measure of emptying out two-thirds of Cold Lake in Alberta to contain the spilling of bitumen at no less than four sites at its Cold Lake project for over a month now. More than 1.5 million liters of bitumen (a mixture of oil sands, heavy crude and water) is said to have leaked.  The bitumen leaked would fill 9600 barrels.

Image 1241 ‘Bitumen leaking through the ground at the Cold Lake site, shown in a video captured by CBC.’

Bitumen leaking through the ground at the Cold Lake site, shown in a video captured by CBC.

Read more…

Train derailment in Sask. used by Premier to call for more oil pipelines

by Steve da Silva – Produced for & BASICS Community News Service


A Canadian National Railway Co. train derailed west of Saskatoon on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (Photo from RCMP)

Last Wednesday, September 25, a Canadian National Rail train with 17 cars carrying hazardous materials, including flammable petroleum, ethanol, and other chemicals, derailed near Landis, Saskatchewan, on Treaty 6 Territory.

No people were injured, and the leaked oil was reportedly minimal and contained, unlike the Lac Megantic disaster in June 2013, which killed 47 and destroyed much of the town’s center.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall used the derailment as an opportunity to hail the benefits of building more oil pipelines: “We are going to be railing more oil out of this province, that’s just the fact of the matter. We’re doing it now and frankly doing it efficiently and safely for the most part, again from a statistical standpoint. But we need pipelines. We need them and we need to be unequivocal that pipelines are still certainly the best way.”