If The Harper government approves the northern Gateway project, they will have defied international law and may be guilty of gross negligence Print
Earth News
Written by Joan Russow
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 07:43

 

By Joan Russow Global compliance Research Project

 

Given the potential threats to the environment and to the land of first nations, under no condition should the Northern Gateway Project Proceed

 

UPDATE: HARPER APPROVED NORTHERN GATEWAY 

 

In my presentation to the Enbridge Panel, I cited the importance of the precautionary principle:   link https://pejnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8792:global-compliance-presentation-to-the-northern-gateway-review-panel-&catid=75:cjustice-news&Itemid=218

 

 

 A.THREATS AND THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

 

Canada is bound by the precautionary principle which reads

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent the threat." (Rio Declaration, UNCED1992).

 

This principle is also contained inthe Convention on Biological Biodiversity, the precautionary principle reads;

 

where there is a threat of significant reduction orloss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat:

 

in the 1992 UN Framework Convention on climate change the precautionary  principle reads:

 

The Parties should take precautionary measures to

anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change

and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of

serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific

certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such

measures,

 

 

and in1995 Agreement “relating to the Conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks …is the obligation to invoke the precautionary principle.

 

There is sufficient evidence that there could be serious irreversible damage, loss of significant biological diversity, adverse effects of climate change, and harm to marine life to justify invoking the precautionary principle and end the fossil fuel triad.

 

B.FEDERAL DEPARTMENTS HAVE MISCONSTRUED  THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

 

 In April 2013, I filed a petition with the Commissioner on the Environment and raised the issue of Canada’s failure to  abide by the precautionary principle . I referred to 14 issues, two of which were related to the tarsands and pipelines

 

QUESTION 1. There is sufficient scientific evidence that the continued exploitation of the tar sands will cause Canada to fail its obligations under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Under Article 2. Of the Convention

 

Under Article 2 of the legally binding UN Framework Convention on Climate change, states are “to stabilize greenhouse gases below a level of dangerous anthropogenic emissions.”

 

 

The Department of Natural Resources responded  that the Government takes the issue of climate change seriously, and under the 2009 Copenhagen Accords, Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) EMISSIONS BY 17 % FROM 2005 LEVELS BY 2020.

 

At Copenhagen, Canada  agreed to far less that the EU that agreed to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and would have been prepared to go as far 30% if other states had been willing.

 

QUESTION 2. There is sufficient evidence that accidents on pipelines have occurred and that pipelines are proposed through sensitive environmental areas in British Columbia and through First Nations’ land; Why will the precautionary principle not be invoked to prevent pipelines and tanker from Enbridge and Kinder Morgan Proposals.

 

In the response from the Department of Natural Resources gave their definition of the precautionary approach as the following:

 

"The Framework outlines guiding principles for precautionary measures and their application in science-based decision making in areas of federal regulatory activity for the protection of health, safety and the environment, as well as the conservation of natural resources. It also addresses the issue of terminology and definition directly in the introduction which states:

 

The application of “precaution”, “the precautionary principle” or “the precautionary

approach” recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm.

 

 I interpret this in the following way the application of “precaution”, “the precautionary principle” or “the precautionary

approach” recognizes that the absence of full scientific certainty [that it is safe] shall not be used as a reason for postponing decisions where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm.

 

[ If the emphasis is on science that demonstrates   that it is safe; it is easy to ignore evidence that it is unsafe.]

 

 On the Other hand the international  version of the precautionary principle essentially affirms that

where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, climate change, or irreversible harm the  of full scientific certainty [that it is unsafe] should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat

 

 C. APPROVAL WOULD REFLECT DISREGARD FOR INTERNATIONAL OBLIGATIONS

 

If the Enbridge pipeline is permitted to proceed, The Harper government  will demonstrate yet again its defiance of international law.

I raise these issues of international law because from my experience at international UN conferences, the Harper government has caused Canada to be perceived as an international pariah because of its obsession with profiting from the tarsands at any cost, while being willing to disregard its duty to guarantee fundamental indigenous and ecological rights and to discharge obligations under international law

If the panel, had respected the issues raised, by the interveners at the August 2010 review panel, and had wished to abide by international obligations and norms, the panel would  have  rejected, unconditionally, the Enbridge pipeline.

 

Also the BC government is bound by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity and by the precautionary principle in both Conventions because, in 1992, the BC Cabinet endorsed both conventions ( document obtained through Freedom of Information).  The BC government could also be deemed to disregard international obligations.

 

D. APPROVAL OF THE PIPELINE COULD BE GROSSLY OR EVEN CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT

 

Proceeding with the pipeline and the tankers could be grossly negligent. There is sufficient evidence of precedents, such as Enbridge spills, regional earth quakes, potential tsunamis, of a drilling rig and widespread pollution of land and water bodies and long term risk of harm to humans and their right to subsistence and survivalthat a prudent or reasonable person would not permit the Enbridge pipeline and tanker traffic . :

Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” (where ‘duty’ means a duty imposed by law). (Section 216, Canadian Criminal Code)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 20:04