B.C. First Nation to ask court to delay federal investment deal with China
- B.C. First Nation to ask court to delay federal investment deal with China
Rebecca Lindell, Global News : Friday, January 04, 2013 5:30 PM
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper waits with Chinese President Hu Jintao at a signing ceremony in Vladivostok;Russia;Sunday Sept. 9;2012.
Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld , The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - A B.C. First Nation is planning legal action to force the Harper government to suspend the ratification of a controversial investment treaty with China until consultation with Aboriginal communities can take place.
The Hupacasath First Nation is preparing to file an injunction against the federal government, arguing Ottawa breached its constitutional obligations to consult First Nations when negotiating the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
"It's written in the constitution that they are to consult with us," said Brenda Sayers, a member of the first nation in Port Alberni, B.C. "They are breaking their own laws."
The Vancouver Island community is the latest in a long line of critics to voice their opposition to the sweeping investment deal signed in September 2012.
The Harper government hailed it as a measure to protect and promote Canadian investment abroad and encourage foreign investment in Canada.
But opponents say the reciprocal 31-year deal opens the door for foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government for decisions that negatively affect their bottom line, leaving taxpayers footing the bill.
Sayers said the agreement would impede the ability of all governments to make decisions about the environment, human rights and resources and as such requires Ottawa to consult First Nations.
She added that the potential impacts are even greater for First Nations communities, like Hupacasath, which is still negotiating its treaty.
"We are not against development, but what we are worried about is our ability to manage resources within our traditional territories," Sayers said, giving the example of China suing a First Nation if it tried to stop logging on a sacred site that is still under treaty negotiations.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Chiefs of Ontario are echoing the call for more consultation before finalizing the deal.
The federal cabinet just has to say the word and the investment deal could come into force immediately, provided Chinese officials have completed their own domestic ratification process. Trade deals do not need the approval of Parliament.
Lawyers for Hupacasath First Nation have notified the Privy Council Office they will seek an injunction by mid-January, unless they receive word the deal will be ratified earlier.
International Trade Minister Ed Fast's spokesman Rudy Husny said the FIPA contains exceptions for sensitive sectors and activities including the rights of First Nations.
"The Canada-China FIPA, like Canada's other FIPAs, provides a policy carve-out for government measures concerning 'rights or preferences provided to aboriginal peoples ...,'" Husny said in a statement.
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