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

Just Posted

Structure fire destroys Surrey tire shop, closes section of Fraser Highway

RCMP have closed Fraser Highway down to traffic from 152 Street to 88 Avenue

Surrey RCMP search for missing 17-year-old girl

Mikayla Logan was last seen in Guildford on Tuesday, May 14

Surrey to begin ‘public engagement process’ on policing transition next week

First in a series of public events set for May 23 at Cloverdale rec centre

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly threatening another youth with a knife in Cloverdale

This was Thursday at a park in the 17200-block of 61A Avenue, Sergeant Chad Greig told the Now-Leader

Free winter parking, higher summer rates eyed for White Rock waterfront

Councillor calls for more hard data on the impact of trial free parking on Marine Drive businesses

UPDATE: B.C. pilot killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Multi-vehicle collision on highway in Chilliwack

Accident involves several vehicles, in the westbound lanes says Drive BC

Man dies after being hit by car in East Vancouver

The driver involved is cooperating with police

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Most Read