New Legal Opinion Warns of EU Trade Impacts on Tar Sands

For Immediate Release


Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians: (613) 795-8685;
Clayton Thomas Muller, Indigenous Environmental Network: (218) 760 6632;

Council of Canadians

New Legal Opinion Warns of EU Trade Impacts on Tar Sands

OTTAWA, Ontario -  A legal opinion released today and handed to visiting European Union
members of parliament argues the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive
Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has considerable potential to
"constrain policy, program and regulatory initiatives needed to address
pressing ecological priorities, including those relating to the impacts
of oil sands development."

"It's clear the Canadian government views the CETA negotiations as
another way to defeat efforts in the EU to address climate change. The
Harper government has already threatened to use existing trade rules to
the same end in the United States. We can now start to see how the
proposed Canada-EU trade agreement would put unrestricted trade and
investment protections above the much more pressing need to reduce the
carbon content of our economies," says Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy and
climate campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

The legal opinion by Steven Shrybman of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell,
commissioned for the Council of Canadians and The Indigenous
Environmental Network, was released today following a meeting in Ottawa
with EU members of parliament. The MEPs, who sit on a committee
dedicated to EU-Canada relations, were in Canada to visit the tar sands
at the request of the Alberta government. They then flew to Ottawa to
meet with Canadian trade negotiators and business interests campaigning
in support of CETA.

The federal and Alberta governments continue to lobby against efforts in
Europe to categorize tar sands-derived oil differently than
conventional oil because of its heavy carbon footprint. The so-called
Fuel Quality Directive is supported in the EU and Canada by First
Nations communities and environmental groups as a positive step towards
discouraging tar sands production.

The legal opinion released today and handed to EU politicians in Ottawa
explains that not only would CETA make such policies vulnerable to trade
challenges, it would "seriously exacerbate current problems by
providing EU based oil companies with new rights to challenge efforts to
contain the pace or character of oil sands development."

“The debate over the tar sands extraction needs to come down to the
fundamental human rights of First Nations to exist and have a future
with a safe, clean and healthy environment,” says Clayton Thomas-Muller,
Tar Sands Campaigner with the IEN. “First Nations access to basic human
necessities is protected by domestic and international law but CETA, by
encouraging more extraction and giving that kind of investment strong
new protections, threatens First Nations access to clean drinking water,
land and sustenance."

The Council of Canadians and IEN state that climate change and other
severe ecological stresses are the most immediate threat to the Canadian
and European economies, but through CETA, Canada and the EU would
prioritize trade liberalization at the expense of Indigenous rights and
effective environmental regulation.

Download the legal opinion at



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