For Immediate Release
Jun 7, 2016

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Sierra Club, ECELAW to Intervene in Judicial Review of NAFTA Tribunal Decision on Digby Quarry


The Federal Court of Canada has granted the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation and East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) standing to intervene in a key environmental case with international consequences. Ecojustice lawyers will be working on behalf of the interveners in this case.

In 2007 the Governments of Canada and Nova Scotia rejected a proposed 120-hectare coastal quarry and marine terminal to be located on Digby Neck., N.S.  The decision followed a detailed environmental impact assessment and the recommendations of an independent Joint Review Panel.

Unsatisfied with the decision, the quarry company, Bilcon of Delaware, filed a claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  This option was available to Bilcon because they are a US company seeking to operate in Canada.  Bilcon was successful in a majority (2-1) decision of a NAFTA Tribunal and now they are seeking $101 million USD in compensation from Canada.

Members of ECELAW and the Sierra Club were full participants in the Joint Review Panel for the proposed quarry.  They provided information and support to the community, brought the concerns to the attention of the public and engaged with experts to provide valuable input on the ecological and socio-economic impacts of the coastal quarry.

“Community members worked tirelessly within the review panel process to present their concerns about the project. There was a very clear process, it was open and transparent,” says Lisa Mitchell, staff lawyer with ECELAW.  “We applaud the Government of Canada for seeking to have the NAFTA Tribunal decision set aside and as interveners we will make every effort to ensure that the Federal Court has the information they need to make a decision.”

“Upholding the NAFTA tribunal’s decision would be disastrous for future environmental assessments involving US companies,” according to Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Atlantic Canada Chapter of Sierra Club Canada Foundation, “The threat of future appeals to investor- state provisions in free trade deals will cast a chill over local communities, because no matter how much damage a project might do, their concerns can be essentially overruled – at great cost.”

“Ecojustice is excited to be representing Sierra Club and ECELAW in this important environmental litigation” said Ecojustice lawyer Scott McAnsh. “International arbitration can have significant effects on environmental policy and we are pleased that the court has agreed that it is in the interests of justice that the views of ECELAW and the Sierra Club be heard on these issues.”

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For media inquiries

Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director | Atlantic Canada Chapter Sierra Club Canada Foundation
1-902-444-7096 (mobile)
gretchenf@sierraclub.ca(link sends e-mail)

Lisa Mitchell, Staff Lawyer | East Coast Environmental Law
1-902-670-1113 (mobile)
lisa@ecelaw.ca(link sends e-mail)

Scott McAnsh, Staff Lawyer | Ecojustice
1- 613-294-1156 (mobile)
smcansh@ecojustice.ca