Skip to main content

Canadian Bar Association feels backlash over Chevron intervention

A protester holds up a sign as he demonstrates against Chevron's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) trial in New York, October 15, 2013.

CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS

Lawyers from across Canada are raising concerns – and in some cases resigning their memberships – over the Canadian Bar Association's intervention on behalf of Chevron Corp. in a high-profile case involving Ecuadorean aboriginal people.

Despite objections from several of its member groups, the CBA board confirmed on Monday its decision to have Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP submit a brief to the Supreme Court of Canada over issues of corporate identity and the enforcement of foreign orders on Canadian companies. Critics raised a number of objections, including the involvement of Blakes, which does corporate work for Chevron in Calgary.

The CBA's original decision to intervene came after it referred the matter to its legislative and law reform committee, which recommended against proceeding. In addition to the environment and aboriginal committees, the civil litigation committee waded in, urging the CBA board in a letter last week to reverse its stand.

Story continues below advertisement

In an interview Tuesday, Victoria lawyer Kathryn Deo, managing partner at Arbutus law group LLP, said she and many of her colleagues from the aboriginal law practice were tendering their resignations in protest. "The CBA didn't follow its own processes at all for when and how it should intervene in a case like this," Ms. Deo said.

A group of villagers from Ecuador's Lago Agrio region want Canadian courts to enforce that Ecuadorean judgment by seizing assets from Chevron and its Canadian subsidiary. The Ontario Court of Appeal reversed a lower court decision, which refused to order a hearing on the substance of the case; Chevron has appealed the jurisdictional question to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Judith Rae of the Toronto firm Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP said the Blakes' involvement raised a "red flag" for her and many of her colleagues due to the potential perception of conflict. Ms. Rae is on the executive of the Ontario Bar Association's aboriginal affairs committee, and said she and the Ontario executive will be pursuing options, including possible resignation from the CBA.

The national association acknowledged Tuesday that it faced a backlash from members and some resignations, though it offered no numbers. It said the resignations were "unfortunate but not surprising.

"Our decision to intervene in the upcoming Supreme Court proceedings was based on our desire to contribute to a debate where fundamental and foundational principles of business law will be argued," the association said in a statement. "This is an important issue for Canada."

The in-house counsel association supported the CBA's decision, as did the corporate law section.

Chevron Corp. spokesman Morgan Crinklaw said the company did not mount a campaign to win support from the CBA. The Supreme Court turned down an application by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to intervene.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter