Canadian garbage rotting in Manila violates international law, lawyers say

Canada dumped more than 100 shipping containers of garbage disguised as plastics for recycling

Filipino environmental activists wear a mock container vans filled with garbage to symbolize the 50 containers of waste that were shipped from Canada to the Philippines two years ago, as they hold a protest outside the Canadian embassy at the financial district of Makati, south of Manila, Philippines on Thursday, May 7, 2015. A Vancouver environmental law firm says Canada broke an international law when it dumped into the Philippines more than 100 shipping containers of garbage improperly labelled as plastics for recycling. The Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation says in a legal opinion done for a coalition of Canadian environment groups that the shipments violate the Basel Convention because either the Canadian company behind them didn’t get consent from the Philippines to send the shipments, or it lied about the contents in order to get approval. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Aaron Favila)

Canada broke international rules when it dumped more than 100 shipping containers of garbage disguised as plastics for recycling into the Philippines six years ago, a Victoria-based environmental law firm says.

Anthony Ho, a lawyer for the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, said the shipments violate multiple parts of the Basel Convention, a 30-year-old treaty that prevents countries from shipping hazardous waste to the developing world without consent.

READ MORE: Canada’s failure to fight climate change ‘disturbing,’ environment watchdog says

He said the fact the Canadian company that shipped the containers inaccurately described their contents “in itself makes those shipments illegal traffic under the Basel Convention.”

The shipping containers arrived in Manila in 2013 and 2014.

A spot check of the contents by customs officials in the Philippines found they were not filled with recycling materials, but rather household garbage that included kitchen waste and used adult diapers.

The containers should have been shipped back to Canada within 30 days of the Canadian government being made aware of them under the convention, Ho said.

Canada’s failure to take responsibility for the waste is another violation of the convention, Ho said, noting the law forbids the country of origin from transferring the obligation to properly manage the hazardous waste to the country importing it.

Canadian authorities argue the convention didn’t apply at the time of the shipments because this country didn’t consider the waste to be hazardous, and have been trying to get the Philippines to dispose of the contents there for the last five years.

Canada amended the regulations in 2016 so that now it applies the convention as long as the country receiving the goods believes they are hazardous, even if Canada does not.

A number of environment and advocacy groups including rightoncanada.ca, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, and the EcoWaste Coalition in the Philippines, sent the legal opinion to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week and urged him to finally order his officials to bring the containers back to Canada for disposal.

Kathleen Ruff, founder of rightoncanada.ca, sought the legal opinion, which she said will be cited by advocates attending the biennial meeting about the Basel Convention in Switzerland later this month.

“I think Canada will be seen as a hypocrite,” Ruff said.

Although the garbage arrived in Manila before Trudeau’s 2015 election victory, he was confronted with the issue within days of being sworn in during a trip for a political summit in November 2015. He promised during to look at the matter, and repeated the pledge when he visited the Philippines in 2017.

In between those visits, a Filipino court ordered Canada to take the trash back in 2016.

Last fall, a working group of Canadian and Filipino officials was created to try and solve the issue.

Caroline Theriault, director of communications for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, said Wednesday that Canada is aware of the 2016 court decision and ”is strongly committed to collaborating with the Philippines government to resolve this issue.”

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the law firm was in Vancouver.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pandemic spurs egg-citement for backyard chickens in Greater Victoria

Fowl surge in popularity during COVID-19 pandemic

Saanich looks at allowing alcohol in parks after North Vancouver gives the green light

Bylaw allowing liquor in parks ‘a very positive idea,’ mayor says

Pandemic profiles: Passion at the heart of community businesses

Businesses rely on community support to stay open

Organizer, Victoria councillor, VicPD talk about upcoming rally for Black lives

‘It’s a simple ask’: Peace rally for Black lives organizer asks people to listen

George Floyd mural appears on Victoria street

Victoria artist Paul Archer painted the mural outside his shop on Fort Street

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Most Read