The national indigenous federations of Canada and Ecuador signed a formal protocol on Monday to work together to hold the Chevron Oil accountable for the dumping toxic oil waste and violating indigenous rights in both countries. Ecuadorian villagers are attempting to collect a $9.5 billion settlement from Chevron ordered by the court for pollution in Amazonian rainforest communities.
Chevron is fighting the judgement.
The protocol was announced in a pubic ceremony in Ottawa at the annual December meeting of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Canada’s national indigenous federation that includes the chiefs of 634 nationalities in the country. It was signed by Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the AFN, considered one of the most important indigenous organizations in the world; Jamie Vargas, the National Chief of Ecuador and the President of that country’s indigenous federation, known as CONAIE; and Carmen Cartuche, the President of the Front for the Defense of the Amazon (FDA), the community-based organization in Ecuador’s Amazon that brought a historic lawsuit against Chevron in 1993 on behalf of indigenous and farmer communities.
“Any violation of Indigenous rights is a violation against all Indigenous peoples,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “This protocol puts Chevron and all corporations on notice that we are watching and we will be vigilant in protecting our rights and our territories. We stand with our brothers and sisters in Ecuador in calling for full respect for our rights, our peoples and our traditional territories.”
“This protocol is a profound step forward for Indigenous groups in both Ecuador and Canada to hold an irresponsible corporate polluter accountable for its actions in destroying indigenous lands and cultures in the Amazon and around the world,” said Vargas of Ecuador’s CONAIE, who is currently leading a national march of indigenous groups in Ecuador to pressure the national government to respect First Nations territorial rights.
Cartuche, whose group (known as the FDA for its Spanish acronym) has led the lawsuit since its inception and is currently trying to collect the judgment in Canadian courts, said, “We want to thank our Canadian brothers and sisters for standing with our communities in their historic struggle to hold Chevron accountable. We look forward to developing joint programs to ensure that Chevron pays a high price for the environmental crimes it committed in Ecuador and for any violations of human rights no matter where they occur.”
The agreement is supported by a resolution passed overwhelmingly today by hundreds of chiefs who attended a plenary session of the AFN. The resolution promises cooperation between the federations and calls on Chevron to cease attacking community leaders and their representatives in Ecuador as part of the company’s avowed “demonization” strategy to evade paying the judgment.
The cooperation protocol between the two national federations and the FDA is potentially a major blow to Chevron’s efforts to evade the environmental liability, imposed by three layers of courts in Ecuador in 2013 after the company was found responsible for the dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste onto indigenous ancestral lands as a cost-saving measure. Cancer rates in the area have skyrocketed and the cultures of five indigenous groups (Cofan, Secoya, Huaorani, Kichwa, and Siona) have been decimated, according to evidence before the Ecuador court.
The protocol is also historic in that it represents the first time that the AFN, known as the most influential national Indigenous federation in the world, has signed a bilateral protocol with the national indigenous federation of a Latin American nation.
Although Chevron had insisted the environmental trial take place in Ecuador and had accepted jurisdiction there, the company later refused to pay the judgment and threatened the Indigenous peoples with a “lifetime of litigation” if they persisted. The case is now in Canadian courts, where the affected communities have won three consecutive appellate decisions in their effort to seize Chevron assets to force the company to comply with the rule of law and pay the Ecuador judgment.
Source: CSR Wire, www.csrwire.com