A Difference in Pipeline Perception: Canada vs. Belize

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The world collectively held its breath when a couple of tourists illegally climbed the Pyramids in Egypt earlier this year: some for fear of their prosecution, some in disbelief at their boldness, some in awe of the magnificent photos that came about as a result of this risky decision to cross the cordoned.

Another one of the planet’s treasures was recently involved in a safety and ownership debate, albeit this one went well under the radar of most—its aesthetics are equally as stunning, and its ecologically importance as significant as that of the cultural rank of the Pyramids.

The earth’s second-largest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, was just saved from offshore drilling.

Activists successfully sued the government of Belize, which had previously issued contracts to energy companies in 2004 and 2007 that allowed for drilling around the “Blue Hole”. According to reports that surfaced, officials had awarded these contracts to ‘inexperienced drillers’ and without thoroughly studying the environmental impacts of such a campaign. Oceana, an international organization for ocean conservation, with two other nonprofits sued the government for this mishandling—winning the lawsuit a few weeks ago in Belize’s Supreme Court.

Princess Petroleum, one of the operations whose contract was just annulled, was launched as a hotel and casino company before being granted allowance to delve into oil exploration by the government of Belize to explore over and around the reef: a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination made famous by legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. (Grist.org)

Oceana has campaigned against offshore drilling in Belize for more than two years, including organizing the nation’s first ever People’s Referendum that saw 29,235 people banding from all over the country to cast votes for the preservation of their surrounding waters. 96% of voters in the February 2012 referendum voted against offshore exploration and drilling.

Here in Canada, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), is rolling ahead to come into effect at the end of October. FIPPA is Canada’s biggest foreign trade treaty since NAFTA and according to the Vancouver Observer, it means that Chinese companies will be able to sue our governments for changing course on Northern Gateway.

DavidSuzuki.org photo

FIPPA will disallow B.C. from negotiating a greater share of profits and creating regulations related to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline for the next 31 years, beginning November 1, 2013.

“This treaty may frustrate in a very significant way the ability of the current B.C. government -or any future government- from stopping that pipeline or bargaining a better deal for B.C.,” Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Law professor who specializes in international investment law, told the Observer.

“Canada was until now a champion of openness in investor-state arbitration. The Canada-China deal undermines basic Canadian principles of public accountability and open courts. It raises dramatically the stakes of Chinese takeovers in the resource sector. If ratified, it will tie the hands of future elected governments for at least 31 years,” Van Harten wrote in an op-ed for The Toronto Star.

Canada must follow the lead of Belize and join hands in the preservation of ecology– rather than tie them.

With files from Grist.org, Oceana.org and Vancouver Observer.


2 thoughts on “A Difference in Pipeline Perception: Canada vs. Belize”

  1. harper must be stopped, people are saying that if that does not happen at the polls or if there is not time then he must be stopped on the ground. Civil disobedience, to the effort of 10 may be what it takes to save Canada from this madman.


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