Canadian Mining Operators Abroad – Corruption as a ‘Real Risk’ Factor in Forum Non Conveniens Applications

By: Rudiger Tscherning

PDF Version: Canadian Mining Operators Abroad – Corruption as a ‘Real Risk’ Factor in Forum Non Conveniens Applications

Case Comment On: Garcia v Tahoe Resources Inc., 2017 BCCA 39 (CanLII)

In Garcia v Tahoe Resources Inc., 2017 BCCA 39 (CanLII) the Court of Appeal of British Columbia reversed an order which had granted Tahoe Resources Inc. (Tahoe) a stay of proceedings on grounds of forum non conveniens. The claim brought against Tahoe concerned the shooting of local protesters by security guards at Tahoe’s Guatemalan mining operation. The Court of Appeal held that the possibility of corruption in the Guatemalan legal system raised a real risk that the claimants would not obtain a fair trial, and therefore concluded that British Columbia was the “more appropriate forum”.

The decision raises a number of important issues, particularly for the Canadian energy and natural resources sector. The decision has the potential to undermine the attractiveness of Canadian jurisdictions as preferred venues for the registration of mining companies that engage in international activities. Tahoe’s registered office is in Vancouver which gave rise to jurisdiction simpliciter. The decision is also noteworthy from a private international law perspective. Firstly, the effect of the judgment is that serious doubt has been cast over the reliability of the legal system of an entire country, thereby raising issues of comity upon which the functioning of private international law depends. Secondly, the case marks the acceptance of the English test of ‘real risk’ of judicial unfairness as a factor in Canadian forum non conveniens analysis. Lastly, the BCCA focused on the close alignment between international resources companies and their host state governments and considered that the context of extensive local opposition to a mining project was a factor that pointed to British Columbia as the more appropriate forum. Continue reading

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Posted in Conflict of Laws, Torts | 1 Comment

Announcing a New Resource for the Letter Decisions of the Alberta Energy Regulator

By: Nigel Bankes, Amy Matychuk, and David Rennie

PDF Version: Announcing a New Resource for the Letter Decisions of the Alberta Energy Regulator

Decisions Commented On: The Participatory/Procedural Decisions of the AER

Several years ago now, ABlawg published a series of posts that were critical of the failure of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and its predecessor the Energy Resources Conservation Board to publish its letter decisions in a systematic way: see herehere and here. Whether in response to that criticism, or for its own good reasons, the AER began posting what it refers to as participatory/procedural decisions (presumably a sub-set of a broader category of letter decisions) in the fall of 2015. When this venture began, the decisions were simply listed with no attached descriptor whatsoever. Now the AER does provide a brief description of the matter at hand but it is still a laborious task to click and retrieve each document and assess its significance.

Having asked the AER to provide this information it accordingly seemed appropriate to try and present it in a more usable and accessible form. Hence this project. The project has three steps. Step one is to provide a digest of each decision. Given the number of these decisions (already over 170) we have not attempted to synthesise or précis these decisions, rather the exercise has been more of a cut-and-paste job hewing closely to the AER’s actual text. We have added key words which are listed below. There is no additional commentary. The result of that exercise has been collated into a PDF document which is available here and is fully searchable. Step two will be to present this information as a set of web-pages. That is a work in progress. Step three will be to write what we anticipate will become a short annual survey of these decisions, assessing trends and perhaps highlighting some of the more important decisions. That too is a work in progress. It goes without saying that while step one is complete until the end of January 2017 we also aim to populate it with new decisions from time to time.

David Rennie (JD 2017) began this work as a summer student in 2016 preparing digests of the first 85 decisions and Amy Matychuk (JD 2018), also a summer student in 2016, continued the work for the latter part of the summer and through the fall. Nigel Bankes provided direction and supervision.

We hope that readers of ABlawg and other researchers will find this tool useful and we welcome your feedback, either by way of a comment on this post or to ndbankes@ucalgary.ca Continue reading

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Alberta Agrees to Amend Human Rights Legislation to Expand Prohibitions Against Age Discrimination

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Alberta Agrees to Amend Human Rights Legislation to Expand Prohibitions Against Age Discrimination

Case Commented On: Ruth Maria Adria v Attorney General of Alberta, Court File No 1603 05013, Consent Order filed 13 January 2017

Human rights legislation exists in every province and territory in Canada, and at the federal level, but protection against discrimination varies amongst jurisdictions with respect to what grounds and areas are protected. Until recently, the Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5, only protected against age discrimination in the areas of publications and notices (section 3), employment practices and advertisements (sections 7 and 8), and membership in a trade union, employers’ organization or occupational association (section 9). Age was not a protected ground in relation to the provision of goods, services, accommodation or facilities customarily available to the public (section 4), or in relation to tenancies (section 5).

In January 2017, the Alberta government agreed to expand the Alberta Human Rights Act to include age as a protected ground under sections 4 and 5. This development was prompted by an application brought in March 2016 by Ruth Maria Adria under section 15 of the Charter, the constitutional equality rights guarantee, to have the omission of age declared unconstitutional and to have age read in to these sections. Continue reading

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Assessing Adaptive Management in Alberta’s Energy Resource Sector

By: Martin Olszynski

PDF Version: Assessing Adaptive Management in Alberta’s Energy Resource Sector

Research Commented On: “Failed Experiments: An Empirical Assessment of Adaptive Management in Alberta’s Energy Resources Sector” (UBC L Rev) (Forthcoming)

It was three years and six months ago – almost to the day – that I published my first ABlawg post. The Joint Review Panel (JRP) assigned to conduct the environmental assessment of Shell’s then-proposed Jackpine oil sands mine expansion project had just released its report. That report was notable for several reasons, including that it was the first to conclude that an oil sands mine was likely to result in “significant adverse environmental effects” pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, SC 2012, c 19 (CEAA, 2012). In Shell Jackpine JRP Report: Would the Real “Adaptive Management” Please Stand Up?, however, I focused on the role that adaptive management had played in the Joint Review Panel’s determination of the project’s environmental effects. Briefly, adaptive management is defined by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency as “a planned and systematic process for continuously improving environmental management practices by learning about their outcomes.” The concern that I have expressed over the past few years is that, as practiced in Canada, adaptive management appears to be seldom planned or systematic. The problem was that I couldn’t show this to be the case – until now.

In a recent paper, I examine the implementation and effectiveness of adaptive management in Alberta’s energy resources sector. Using freedom of information processes, publicly available documents, and communication with the relevant regulator, I collected the environmental impact statements, environmental assessment reports (e.g. the Shell Jackpine JRP Report), statutory approvals and required follow-up reports for thirteen energy projects in Alberta: two coal mines, three oil sands mines, and eight in situ oil sands operations. In each case, the proponent proposed adaptive management for at least one environmental issue or problem. I then analyzed these various documents to determine the conception, implementation, and, to the extent possible, effectiveness of adaptive management with respect to each project throughout the regulatory cycle (i.e. from the proposal stage through to approval and reporting). Simply put, I set out to determine how adaptive management was actually being applied in this context.

Unfortunately, the results confirm longstanding concerns about the implementation of adaptive management in natural resources development. Continue reading

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The Efficiency Plank in Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: The Efficiency Plank in Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan

Report Commented On: Getting it Right: A More Energy Efficient Alberta, Final Report of the Alberta Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel, released 23 January 2017 and related press release

As reported in previous posts, Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan (CLP) released in November 2015 following receipt of the Leach Report has four key planks: (1) phasing out emissions from coal-generated electricity and developing more renewable energy, (2) implementing a new carbon price on greenhouse gas emissions, (3) a legislated oil sands emission limit, and (4) employing a new methane emission reduction plan.

The government introduced legislation to implement an economy-wide carbon price in June 2016 (the Climate Leadership Implementation Act) with the results of that in the form of the carbon levy coming into force on January 1 of this year (2017). The fall session of the legislature (2016) saw the introduction and passage of Bill 25, The Oil Sands Emission Limit Act to implement the third objective, a legislated oil sands emission limit (I commented on Bill 25 here) and followed this up with Bill 27, the Renewable Electricity Act to implement the second half of the first plank – developing more renewable energy. I commented on Bill 27 here. Then there were subsequent developments with respect to transforming Alberta’s “energy only” market which I commented on here. This last post also commented on the first half of the first plank of the CLP, i.e. the agreement between the province and the owners on the phase-out of coal generating facilities and the level of compensation payable.

As part of the plan to replace coal generation the province has also been looking at energy efficiency policies and micro or distributed generation. Although energy efficiency measures do not result in more generation they do suppress load and avoid (or at least postpone) the need to build or run new generation. While energy efficiency has a lower public profile than new generation, most commentators suggest that energy efficiency and demand side management policies are usually among the most cost effective measures for meeting load and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – especially where the current energy mix, as in Alberta, is carbon intensive. Continue reading

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Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Utility Regulation | Leave a comment