On September 26th, 2013, the Conservative Party of Canada tabled the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Promotion Agreement (FIPA) in the House of Commons. This agreement would allow China to sue Canada for loss of profits in the case of legal interference. For instance, if a Canadian legislature passes environmental or labour regulations that get in the way of Chinese foreign investors, they can sue the government for legislating in such a manner.
It gets better. Not only would these lawsuits be settled in unaccountable tribunals outside of Canada, we would be locked into this agreement for 31 years. Article 35 of the agreement stipulates that parties can not even begin the process of termination for 15 years. Once a request to terminate has been filed, FIPA requires an additional 15 years notice before cancellation, which will officially occur the following year.
To put things into perspective, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) requires six months notice to cancel. Simply put, FIPA forfeits Canadian sovereignty and abandons the interests of Canadians. It cheapens democracy by overriding the will of the people, who have elected representatives to legislate in a particular fashion. It prohibits future governments from exiting an agreement that stands to cost taxpayers billions of dollars in lawsuits. It denies our country the opportunity to pursue our goals in environmental sustainability, protect workers’ rights, and adapt to shifting global markets.
In what world does this sound like a good idea? Stephen Harper’s world. According to the official government website, FIPA is meant to provide “a stable legal framework to promote and protect foreign investment”. This goal is accompanied by a slew of stats and figures, which are meant to demonstrate just how much money stands to flow our way, thanks to foreign investment. It conveniently leaves out how much money we stand to lose.
Moreover, the Conservatives point out that “according to the UNCTAD 2005 World Investment Report, an unusually high number of new policies introduced by host governments in 2004 made conditions less favourable for foreign companies to enter the market and affects the domestic investment conditions”.
Well, colour me surprised. Who knew that policies, geared towards sustainability and worker’s rights, would steer away investors who are looking to pillage land and disregard its inhabitants to make a profit. What confuses me is why our federal government wishes to cater to those sorts of investors, when their wish to challenge Canadian law directly subverts the will of the Canadian people.
However, Armageddon is not yet upon us. There remains a ray of hope. Although the agreement has been signed, it has yet to be ratified. This is largely thanks to outcry from groups, like the Hupacasath First Nation, who submitted an application to challenge FIPA and prevent its ratification. The Hupacasath First Nation is arguing that the federal government had the duty to consult with their band, but failed to do so.
Seeing as how the treaty would greatly affect First Nations peoples and their right to self-government, they have sought action through the courts. Their first attempt to challenge FIPA in court proved unsuccessful; however, the Hupacasath First Nation is currently seeking to appeal the decision. Potentially, their actions stand in the way of ratifying FIPA. With any luck, we can put this all behind us.
Perhaps, in a few years, we will all look back on how dangerously far the Harper government was willing to risk our nation’s sovereignty, values, tax dollars and democracy in the name of foreign investment.