TORONTO — Humberto Piaguaje sat quietly in a Toronto courtroom as Canadian corporate lawyers traded arguments over the fate of a multi-billion dollar legal battle involving his community in Ecuador.
Piaguaje represents a community of about 30,000 from the Amazon jungle who in 2011 won a US$9.5 billion pollution judgment against California-based Chevron Corp. after a seven-year long trial in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian plaintiffs have come to Toronto to ask an Ontario judge to let them enforce the judgment by seizing shares of Chevron Canada, the U.S. oil giant’s Canadian subsidiary.
“We had to travel here all the way from the Amazon, seeking justice against Chevron,” Piaguaje said through an interpreter during an interview outside the courtroom. “I am seeing that corporations only care about protecting themselves and are only looking out for themselves.”
The case is a controversial one. Two U.S. federal courts have refused to let the Ecuadorian plaintiffs enforce the case in the U.S. because they concluded the trial judgment was fraudulently obtained.
The content might be emotionally charged, but the Ontario proceedings are not. When legal arguments conclude later this week, Judge Glenn Hainey of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will be asked to decide between competing approaches to Canadian corporate law that Piaguaje is watching unfold in the Toronto courtroom.
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