(February 13, 2013) EDC’s environmental decisions are virtually immune from judicial review, says a new study. Crown corporation can set standards for project approval and exempt projects from scrutiny.
Canada’s $100-billion export credit agency is governed by toothless environmental laws, according to a study published today by Probe International.
Because of the way environmental review procedures used by Canada’s Export Development Canada (EDC) are crafted, a decision to finance a project that causes environmental harm would almost certainly be immune from judicial review, says lawyer Stuart Norris, the study’s author.
EDC, a federal Crown corporation that finances Canadian corporate exports and investments in projects such as China’s Three Gorges dam and mining projects throughout the Third World, is governed by a federal statute that is circular in nature, says Mr. Norris.
“EDC has no environmental standards to follow except those it chooses,” he says.
EDC is governed by the Export Development Act, a federal statute that was amended in 2001 to oblige EDC to determine whether a project it proposes to support is likely to have adverse environmental consequences. The same statute then gives EDC the right to excuse itself from the very obligation. Mr. Norris describes the potential for EDC’s “troubling use of its vast discretion.”
Parliament and the government of Jean Chrétien, which introduced the amendments, were warned at the time by the Parliamentary Library that EDC would be given “unlimited freedom to make any decision” that would be “virtually immune from judicial review.”
Mr. Norris also describes another extraordinary clause that was introduced to the amended EDA that makes it a crime to use the initials EDC or Export Development Canada for “business purposes” without EDC’s permission. To Mr. Norris’s knowledge, no other country in the developed world punishes its citizens merely for referring to a company. This “crime” in Canada is punishable by a $10,000 fine and a six-month jail term. Though this provision is likely unconstitutional, says Mr. Norris, it is an indication of a Crown corporation with heavy-handed powers that is unaccountable to Canadian citizens.
Read the full study here.
For more information, contact:
Executive Director, Probe International
Tel. (416) 964-9223 (ext. 227)
For details of EDC’s virtual exemption from Canada’s Access to Information Act, see Probe International’s recent submission to the Information Commissioner of Canada’s review of the ATIA: Immunity from scrutiny: Canada’s Access to Information Act hobbles democracy.