China-Canada FIPA: BC First Nation Wants Deal Ratification Stopped

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Federal Court documents have been filed by a B.C. First Nation to stop the ratification of a Canada-China investment deal. (Twitter/Cecilia Point) | Twitter: Cecilia Point

VANCOUVER - A B.C. First Nation has asked the Federal Court to stop Canada from ratifying an investment treaty with China until it and other bands have been consulted.

In documents filed with the court in Vancouver, the Hupacasath First Nation said the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act, or FIPA, would gut its aboriginal right to resources subject to foreign investment.

Councillor Brenda Sayers said Monday the band is seeking the injunction because Chinese investors would ultimately control major assets such as coal on its 232,000-hectare territory.

She said extraction of resources by foreign firms would strip negotiating powers for First Nations such as hers, which are involved in the treaty process.

"Some modern treaties negotiated with British Columbia and Canada address Canada's obligation to consult prior to entering into international agreements which may affect treaty rights," the notice of application says.

"The government proceeded without any input from First Nations, or Canadians for that matter, so this isn't just a First Nations fight. It just so happens that First Nations are one of the parties that can stop the FIPA," Sayers said.

"The other party is the premiers of each province who have not stepped up to the plate."

The Conservative government has said FIPA will benefit Canada by increasing trade and investment with China as its economy booms to the point of becoming the largest in the world.

Sayers said the deal is troubling because there's been no formal debate in the House of Commons and Conservative MPs voted down a motion that would have allowed scrutiny by expert witnesses.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the Chiefs of Ontario and the Serpentine River First Nation in Ontario are also supporting the injunction.

The Canada-China deal would last for 31 years and was set to be ratified late last year, but public pressure has been building against it from people concerned about the environment and potential job losses.

The Canadian Labour Congress has also called for a public debate on the agreement Canada negotiated with China last September, saying it would have a huge impact on labour markets and labour rights.

Gus Van Harten, an international trade law expert from Osgoode Hall Law School, has filed an affidavit in the case, saying the treaty may be unconstitutional because state-owned Chinese companies would be allowed to dispute laws and regulations passed by provinces.

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