On the morning of the 4th of September, the Supreme Court of Canada released their judgment in Chevron Corp. v. Yaiguaje, and maybe the sun broke on something. Or maybe nothing happened at all.
Much has been written on the case and much more will be written still. In short, for over 20 years, 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians have sought accountability and reparations for the destruction of their lives, lands and future by global oil interests. In 2013, a court in Ecuador awarded them $9 billion, but it has never been paid. Couched, hedged and circumscribed, the decision says only that Ontario is an acceptable place to collect on the debt of a global corporation that operates there. Much remains to be decided.
Still: at least nominally, the judgement gestures towards a jurisprudence that is part of a global value structure which does not allow capital to have its cake and eat it.
If you squint, the decision seems to whisper “you can have the power to organize the world in any part of the globe you want, all the machinery of the law put at your disposal in your efforts to direct money power there and to organize it in ways that will allow you to extract money later, but you cannot have it both ways.”
If you close one eye, you can almost hear the decision say “if you want us to protect your money going to the ends of the earth, and you want us to protect it coming back from there, then you also cannot ask us to shield you from the claims of those who may have been wronged when you were using it at the ends of the earth to do your bidding.”
Perhaps, with both eyes wide open, this silver glow of dawn is all we’ll ever hear.
But still: capital has spent the last 30 years trying to create transnational power. Maybe, somewhere, some day, the Queen’s own courts might only ask them to transnationalize their responsibilities as well.
Congratulations, you are now free to try to collect in world’s sub-sovereign default capital.
Seriously, though, it’s nice to see morality prevailing from the bench, even if the Queen happens to own it.