Canada challenged to stop violating UN environmental Convention

View associated letter and legal opinion sent April 15/19 to Prime Minister Trudeau.

Apr 16 2019

The UN Basel Convention constitutes binding international law and forbids the dumping of illegal wastes in developing countries. Canada has ratified the Convention and is therefore legally and morally bound to comply with its provisions.

A legal opinion provided by lawyers at the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation demonstrates that the Canadian government’s conduct in dumping thousands of tons of wastes in the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 and its ongoing refusal to take back the wastes is illegal.

Canadian and international environmental groups, including CELA, have now sent the legal opinion and a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau challenging the government to stop violating international environmental law and take back the wastes. In their letter, the groups point out that Canada’s conduct is not only illegal but also immoral and demonstrates disrespect towards developing countries.

The legal opinion notes the following illegal actions:

  • The Basel Convention prohibits the export of wastes that are falsely labelled. The wastes in question were falsely labelled as plastics for recycling, but were, in fact, mixed household garbage.
  • The Basel Convention prohibits the export of wastes that are illegal wastes in the country to which they are being exported. Under Philippine law, it was illegal to ship household wastes to the Philippines .
  • The Basel Convention requires a country that has exported illegal wastes, as Canada did, to take back the wastes within 30 days. The Canadian government has for five years refused to do so, despite requests from Philippine authorities and despite an order by a Philippine court.

In January and February this year, Canadian and international environmental groups wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau requesting the government to take action and stop violating the Basel Convention. The government did not respond to either letter. Instead, the government issued media statements claiming that exporting the wastes was a legal activity at the time and that Canada’s regulations have been amended so no problems now exist.

The legal opinion clearly demonstrates that what the government said is untrue. Canada’s conduct in exporting the wastes in 2013-2014 was illegal. Canada’s continuing refusal to take back the wastes is illegal.

The United Nations (UN) conference of the 187 countries who have ratified the Basel Convention, which takes place every two years, will take place in Geneva starting April 29, 2019. The meeting will be the 30th anniversary of the treaty. This is an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate to the world that it is a responsible global citizen and announce the date by which it will take back the wastes it illegally exported to the Philippines.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to funding assistance from West Coast Environmental Law for the legal opinion.

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For more information:

Kathleen Ruff, RightOn Canada.ca
kruff@starlynx.ca