The U.S. has engaged in several destructive and ill-conceived trade agreements over the years, including NAFTA, WTO, and others. But Canada may just have struck a trade deal that makes our mistakes look small in comparison.
Under the terms of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, approved by PM Harper on Friday, China can sue Canada in secret tribunals to repeal national and provincial laws that interfere with Chinese investments, including laws limiting construction of the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.
The treaty allows the government to engage in secret negotiations to vary its rules and laws to avoid harm to Chinese assets, or to pay public money to Chinese companies, and only publish notice once the matter is final and settled. The way the deal is structured, it can’t be undone, even if the Canadian courts find it to be unconstitutional, without consent from China. More significantly, it overrides existing treaty obligations to Canada’s First Nations, allowing Chinese investors to force the Canadian government to grant access to aboriginal lands that are technically not Canadian territory.
First Nations argued that the deal was not valid, as it would violate section 35 of the Constitution requiring consultation over projects that could affect traditional territory. The Hupacasath First Nation in B.C. took the federal government to court last year over the FIPA deal, while citizen advocacy groups Leadnow and SumOfUs delivered 60,000 signatures from across Canada in opposition to the agreement. The court decision on the Hupacasath First Nation’s legal appeal is still pending, despite the ratification.
“This is a truly sad day for Canada,” said Brenda Sayers, representative of the Hupacasath First Nation. “The people of Canada should be alarmed that our constitutional rights have been stolen from our hands.”
“A massive citizen response and the Hupacasath First Nation’s legal challenge has delayed ratification of this secretive and extreme investor deal for two years longer than anyone thought possible,” said Leadnow executive director Jamie Biggar.
“Today, Prime Minister Harper is showing his disrespect for the legal process by ratifying this agreement before the courts have finished reviewing the case.”