Campaign Letters

December 2001 Campaign Letter

December 09, 2001

Under a new law, just saying “EDC” or “Export Development Corporation” could be illegal.

The federal government has proposed a devious new law that will give the Export Development Corporation (EDC) – a Crown corporation that finances multinationals and others who build ruinous Third World megaprojects – the legal right to help destroy the environment in other countries. The new law, Bill C-31, will also keep Canadian taxpayers in the dark about EDC’s activities, and could be used to gag groups like Probe International when we try to expose what they are doing.

Specifically, this new law will give EDC executives the right to carry out their own environmental assessments of their own projects and then act as their own judge and jury. EDC will even be allowed to delegate to its multinational corporate clients the ability to conduct their own environmental assessments.

EDC also remains exempt from the Access to Information Act, ensuring that Canadian citizens can’t get their hands on reports and internal documents that might expose wrongdoing. Apart from bare bones information – such as who is receiving the government largesse – Canadian taxpayers will be denied the right to any information that EDC and the multinational corporations don’t want us to have. So far, EDC has racked up almost $19 billion in taxpayer liabilities.

Perhaps most appalling, the proposed law would make it an offence to use EDC’s name in any radio or newspaper advocacy ad, billboard, bumper sticker, or other advertisement, among other restrictions, without EDC’s consent. EDC’s lawyers have already warned Probe International to stop referring to them as “EDC” or “Export Development Corporation” on our web site “to avoid the costs associated with litigation” – and that was before the new law was even introduced. The penalty for merely referring to “EDC” or to the “Export Development Corporation” could be $10,000 and six months in jail. Prominent lawyers are disturbed by this threat to our basic liberties. The West Coast Environmental Law Association’s Executive Director, Linda Nowlan, calls this attempt to stifle legitimate public debate “chilling and offensive.” The Executive Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, Richard Owens, calls it “inappropriate and ill-advised.”

EDC has a long history of financing reprehensible projects, including nuclear technology to military hotspots in Pakistan and India, mines that dump cyanide into rivers, and hydro dams that destroy fertile valleys in poor countries and force millions of people off their lands.

In the 20 years we have been watchdogs over EDC’s activities, we have stopped numerous projects around the world, many of them representing lost business opportunities for EDC. In the past, EDC established an internal “Probe International taskforce” to counter us, and now EDC may use Bill C-31 to try to silence us where past attempts have failed.

For decades, our motto has been “We Name Names.” We aren’t about to stop. With your support, we will continue to expose EDC’s environmentally destructive projects around the world, to stop EDC from harming innocent people in other countries, and to insist that EDC be held to account for its actions.

Yours sincerely,

Patricia Adams, Executive Director

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