Digby Neck, Nova Scotia:  Corporate Rights v Community Rights
by Ruth Caplan, Vice Co-chair, Alliance for Democracy, former chair Sierra Club Corporate Accountability Committee

                                      boats Digby Neck NS

Digby Neck scallop fleet

On a summer day in August of 2012, Janet Eaton headed south from her family home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, with Alliance for Democracy leaders in tow. We were headed for Digby Neck, along the shore of the Bay of Fundy near the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, site of the successful campaign to stop a quarry to mine basalt by Bilcon, a corporation based in New Jersey.

The local community of farmers, fisher folks, small shopkeepers, tourism operators, and retirees had rallied to stop the quarry while Janet, a global justice warrior and Sierra Club Canada activist, brought it to the international stage. Working together, we mobilized the Sierra Club’s Corporate Accountability Committee in the U.S. and eventually the national Board in opposition, one piece of the successful campaign to stop the quarry. In 2007, the Canadian Joint Review Panel rejected the quarry. Now, at last, I would have a chance to visit Digby Neck. 

We caught up with Kemp Stanton in Whale Cove near the quarry site, as he emerged from the shed that housed gear for hauling his boat to dry dock. A seventh-generation lobsterman, Kemp had proven to be an unexpected impediment to Bilcon’s quarry plans.

Kemp took us out on the bay in his fishing boat. He knew every nook and cranny of the shore and every contour of the bay floor. He showed us where the quarry would have rent asunder the magical beauty of this place. His spirit clearly reflected how people can live in harmony with nature, even as they depend on natural abundance for their livelihood.

Dave Lewit,
                                      Janet Eaton and Kemp Stanton

Dave Lewit, Janet Eaton and Kemp Stanton tour the Digby Neck coast
This harmony is under dire threat by international trade agreements like NAFTA and now two new agreements being negotiated: the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) representing 40% of the global economy and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU.

Tragically, this threat is not theoretical. In a recent NAFTA case before the secret international Permanent Court of Arbitration, Bilcon successfully sued the Canadian government for violation of NAFTA rules favoring corporate rights over local and national democratic rights to protect the environment and human health. Now Bilcon is demanding $300 million in damages from Canada.

The Globe and Mail reported:
A dissenting member of the panel—University of Ottawa law professor Donald McRae—warned that the ruling represents a “significant intrusion” into domestic jurisdiction and will “create a chill” among environmental review panels that will be reluctant to rule against projects that would cause undue harm to the environment or human health.
Do we really want these rules to be vastly extended throughout the global economy by the TPP and TTIP?

Congress must say NO to the TPP and NO to the TIPP before it is too late.  Join activists across the country in organizing local TPP/TTIP Free Zones and in opposing fast track. Go to www.tppfreezones.org for more information and to read local resolutions passed by municipalities.

For background on Bilcon and more information on Digby Neck, read "Digby Neck, Nova Scotia v. Mega-Quarry, SPP and Atlantica: Struggling to Maintain a Small Scale Sustainable Economy in Face of Imposed Extractive Economy," by Janet Eaton, which appeared in the Fall 2007 edition of Justice Rising, focusing on "Moving from Corporate Extraction to the Grassroots Restoration Economy."