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On December 11, 2014, the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) intervened in relation to the appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada by Chevron Corporation and Chevron Canada Limited from the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Yaiguaje v Chevron Corporation.

This appeal represents the latest chapter in what has been an extraordinarily long series of proceedings originating in a dispute over the environmental impacts of an oil operation in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador between 1972 and 1992. Members of the local community filed a claim against Texaco, the predecessor of the appellant Chevron Corporation, in US federal court in the Southern District of New York in 1993. In 2002, after a protracted legal battle over jurisdiction involving multiple stages of appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit finally brought a close to this stage in the dispute by granting Texaco’s motion to dismiss the action to Ecuadorian courts on forum non conveniens grounds.

Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed a claim in Ecuador in 2003, by which time Texaco had merged with Chevron. The ensuing trial resulted in a ruling of liability against Chevron in 2011, with an accompanying award of damages in the amount of US$18 billion (subsequently reduced on appeal to US$9.5 billion).

This, however, did not conclude the matter. Rather, it merely touched off a series of legal battles in multiple jurisdictions over the validity and enforce-ability of the Ecuadorian judgment. In the present Canadian proceedings, which began in 2012, the respondents seek recognition and enforcement of the judgment in Ontario.

The appellants have challenged the jurisdiction of the Ontario courts to entertain an action for the recognition and enforcement of the Ecuadorian judgment against them. This raises important questions of private international law concerning both jurisdiction and the recognition of foreign judgments. JCAP’s submissions in this appeal were directed towards ensuring that Canadian rules of private international law afford communities in foreign countries, whose rights and lives have been affected by the activities of multinational mining companies, access to justice and effective remedies. In particular, JCAP is concerned with ensuring the continued development of the forum of necessity doctrine in Canadian law. This doctrine promotes access to justice by allowing a Canadian court to assert jurisdiction where the plaintiff has no viable recourse elsewhere.

Developments

The Supreme Court appeal was heard on December 11, 2014. The Supreme Court’s judgment is currently under reserve.

The Supreme Court appeal was heard on December 11, 2014. The Supreme Court’s judgment is currently under reserve.