Northvolt wants to impose a secret confidentiality agreement on the “community liaison committee”

Northvolt wishes to impose a confidentiality agreement on the members of the “community liaison committee” that it decided to set up as part of the development of its industrial complex. In the event of non-compliance, it reserves the right to take legal action. A way of muzzling citizens who would choose to get involved, according to two experts on these issues.

The duty obtained a copy of the draft “non-disclosure agreement” submitted to the members of the committee, which Northvolt presents as a “citizen information approach” and “a place for exchange and dialogue”. This agreement, written in very technical legal language, is designed to strictly regulate what information presented by the company the committee members can disseminate or not.

The document also specifies that “the existence and content of this agreement must also be considered as Confidential Information”.

This also provides that in the event of a “dispute”, the parties will have to go through an arbitration procedure whose procedures and decisions will be “strictly confidential”. And that in the event of “violation” of “one of the conditions or provisions” of this agreement to be signed, Northvolt reserves the right to take recourse to the courts.

By emphasizing from the outset “the importance of open communication and collaboration in sharing information related to the environmental decisions taken by Northvolt”, but also by emphasizing the desire to transmit information “in full transparency” and by saying it wants to respect the right of participants to “comment publicly on these issues”, the company sets criteria defining what will be considered “confidential information”.

“In this agreement, confidential information means all information provided or disclosed before or after the signing of this agreement, whether communicated in writing, orally or visually, and regardless of form”, which is obtained from Northvolt as part of the committee’s “discussions”. Information that is already public in nature is not included.

There follows a lengthy paragraph specifying what cannot be disclosed: “Northvolt Confidential Information may include (but is not limited to) product plans, product designs, cost data, product pricing , raw material costs, customer information, financial results, marketing or strategic plans, business opportunities, research, development, know-how, personnel, specifications, manufacturing processes, drawings, software, data, samples and prototypes prepared, owned or owned by Northvolt and any of its affiliates, wherever located in the world, together with all copies, notes and all derivative products prepared by the receiving party that contain confidential information, whether or not specifically identified as confidential. »

Members may, however, disclose information in accordance with the terms “provided for” by the agreement, “after having obtained the prior written consent of Northvolt”.

“Good practices”?

Northvolt confirms having “invited” the members of the committee to sign a “confidentiality agreement” “in order to allow members to obtain as much information as possible which would not be immediately available to the general public”.

The company adds that this is part of the “good practices” determined by the Quebec government and ensures that this document “does not limit members in their public comments on the project and/or about Northvolt, ‘exception of confidential information identified by the confidentiality agreement’.

“We intend to respect these good practices, which also remind us that the reasons and conditions for requests for confidentiality must be established in advance by the committee. This is why this agreement has been submitted to members for comments before the next meeting of the committee. We are waiting for their feedback,” explains Northvolt by email.


A lawyer specializing in the environment and retired professor from the Department of Legal Sciences at UQAM, Jean Baril denounces this type of approach. “I would never sign such a document. It’s really meant to handcuff citizens. I see nothing positive in this agreement, and my advice to anyone would be this: do not sign this document. Nothing demonstrates the desire for transparency displayed by Northvolt in the first lines of the agreement. »

“We are not in the business of publicly sharing information. We are in the area of ​​sharing information with a certain number of people who have agreed not to communicate information and not to participate in a public debate under penalty of serious consequences,” he adds. after reading the document.

According to him, the objective of such a committee is not to expose confidential information such as that included in the agreement. It is therefore difficult to explain the confidentiality clauses imposed. “Citizens want to have environmental and social information. They are not looking for information of a commercial nature. »

Same story with Marie-Ève ​​Maillé, environmental mediator specializing in evaluating the social repercussions and social acceptability of major projects. “This way of doing things is not likely to facilitate a bond of trust with the community. In my opinion, this is contrary to the objective and spirit of a monitoring committee. »

“It’s a bit of a way of intimidating citizens, who can say to themselves: “I have no right to talk about anything.” Even the fact that an agreement exists is confidential. So I don’t see what they could talk about in the public arena, other than information that has already been made public,” underlines Mesh.

The formation of the committee was announced at the beginning of February, after the emergence of several questions regarding transparency in the development of the most important industrial project in the history of Quebec. Northvolt then explained in a press release that it would create a committee “whose constitution and operating mechanisms are inspired by good industry practices”, in order to “involve” the citizens of the region. “in monitoring the construction and operation activities of Northvolt Six”.

This committee has 21 people, including citizens, but also representatives of the company and the municipalities of McMasterville and Saint-Basile-le-Grand, a member of the Northvolt Project Citizen Action Committee and two representatives of the region’s chambers of commerce. .

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