Why is a progressive Canadian union cozying up with one of the world’s most regressive regimes? Why are they boasting about meeting with officials of a government that Human Rights Watch says has “abused its power to harass, intimidate, and punish” its political opponents?
Perhaps we should direct that question to the Canadian branch of the Union of Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), whose leaders recently returned from a tour of Ecuador.
Ecuador is controlled by the hardline socialist government of strongman leader Rafael Correa. The government routinely seizes private property, shuts down critical newspapers, and systematically fires independent judges and replaces them with government cronies.
This is not exactly the type of regime that progressive Canadian unions should be rubbing elbows with, and yet, the UFCW are singing the government’s praises.
According to the union’s website, its leaders participated in an “international solidarity exchange.” The union bosses met with Ecuadorian officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss workers’ rights, particularly when it comes to the protection of temporary foreign workers in Canada and migrant workers around the world. The news release on their website makes no mention of Ecuador’s laundry list of human rights offenses; instead, it simply regurgitates Ecuadorian government propaganda about an ongoing lawsuit against the US-based oil company Chevron.
The lawsuit – which has been thrown out in several other jurisdictions around the world– is now coming to Canada. Perhaps that helps answer the question of why Ecuador’s government rolled out the red carpet for the Canadian union leaders.
Starting in the 1960s, the state-owned oil company PetroEcuador partnered with American firm Texaco to develop its oil fields. Texaco left Ecuador in 1994, after cleaning up its oil sites and passing inspections by the government’s environmental authority. Years later, after Texaco was bought by Chevron, environmental lawyers in Ecuador teamed up with American activists to launch an unprecedented $27 billion lawsuit against Chevron for oil spills and environmental damages.
For the activist plaintiffs, this wasn’t simply a lawsuit against Chevron; it was a public relations opportunity to discredit the oil giant and demonize the entire industry. These activists even made a documentary about the lawsuit and became media darlings in the anti-development and anti-oil circles of Hollywood.
The courts in Ecuador sided with the activists and found Chevron liable for $9.5 billion in damages. Ecuador’s socialist government quickly jumped onboard and demanded Chevron pay up. Better to blame an American corporation than accept that any responsibility lies with the state monopoly PetroEcuador, who has been the sole owner and operator of these sites for decades.
But Chevron refused to roll over and launched its own suit in the US, alleging they had not received a fair trial in Ecuador. The US courts summoned all the raw video footage from the documentary, and in those tapes, they found shocking new evidence.
The US court ruled that the Ecuadorian judgement was the product of “egregious fraud” and was not enforceable. In fact, the 500-page ruling found the lawyers behind the suit against Chevron had violated the federal Racketeering Act, and had committed “money laundering,” “witness tampering and obstruction of justice.”
The Wall Street Journal called it “the legal fraud of the century.”
This charade has now arrived on Canada’s doorsteps, after our top court foolishly agreed to hear this case in Canada.
And so, in advance of the court date, the government of Ecuador is trying to find Canadian allies and moral support. It is only a matter of time before more Canadian union leaders and politicians receive invitations to visit the sunny and tropical Ecuador. Future visitors would be wise to look into Ecuador’s unsavory record, and read the lengthy US court decision, before jumping on the bandwagon and championing this shady cause.
To view the original story on the Toronto Sun, click here.