A U.S.-based pharma giant’s threat to sue Canada for $500 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has prompted activist groups to launch a petition and call for a rethink of investors’ rights in Canada.

Earlier this year, Indiana-based Eli Lilly notified the government it plans to take Canada to a NAFTA arbitration panel, asking for $500 million after Canadian courts invalidated two of its drug patents.

Consumer groups and activists say the move is an attack on Canadian sovereignty that could result in Canadian court decisions effectively no longer applying to U.S. and Mexican companies.

But Eli Lilly argues Canadian courts have been overzealous in striking down drug patents in recent years, and the rulings — which the company says have already cost it $1 billion — could force the company out of Canada.

The activist site SumOfUs.org has launched a petition accusing the drug maker of suing Canada “because it didn’t make enough profit.”

And the Council of Canadians released a report last week calling on policymakers to rethink investors’ rights in Canada in the wake of the threatened lawsuit.

The suit “would be so harmful to our democracy, and set such a dangerous international precedent, that it cannot be allowed to proceed,” the Council said.

Under Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, companies in one NAFTA country can sue the government of another NAFTA country for “regulatory expropriation.” That can be interpreted to mean a loss of value to the company — such as lower profits — due to actions taken by the government.

Critics of Eli Lilly’s move say the lawsuit over two lost drug patents is an unprecedented expansion of the notion of “regulatory expropriation.” They fear Canadian courts could lose the ability to make judgments on patents held by companies in NAFTA countries. The critics argue NAFTA allows signatory countries to determine their own standards for what is patentable.

In Ely Lilly’s case, the drug maker is objecting to Canadian courts striking down its patents for Strattera, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drug, and Zyprexa, a schizophrenia drug.

In both cases, Eli Lilly objects to Canadian courts’ use of the “promise doctrine,” which says that a drug’s patent is only valid if the drug does what the patent applicant “promised” the drug would do.

The promise doctrine not only contravenes Canada’s treaty obligations, it is also discriminatory, arbitrary, unpredictable and remarkably subjective,” Eli Lilly wrote in a letter of intent to the federal government.

The company says that with the “promise doctrine” Canadian courts have “moved outside the bounds of international norms.” Its chief patent lawyer told The Globe and Mail earlier this year he is having a hard time explaining to his bosses “why they keep losing Canadian patents.”

Eli Lilly’s CEO, John Lechleiter, told a Globe editorial board meeting earlier this year that his company has already lost $1 billion due to the patent rulings, and would consider exiting Canada altogether if the trend continues.

Critics of Eli Lilly's move would likely not object to that.

"Lilly’s outrageous claims in its NAFTA dispute should trigger an immediate rethink in Canada of the value of investor-state arbitration to the Canadian economy, and its obvious harmful effects on democracy," the Council of Canadians wrote last week. "Canada has paid out over $160 million in losses or settlements with firms as a result of NAFTA investment disputes."

At present, there are at least eight lawsuits against Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, with about $2.5 billion at stake.

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  • We Speak English And French, Not Canadian

  • But We Don't All Speak French

  • Or English

  • We Didn't Make Celine Dion, Nickelback And Justin Bieber Famous. You Did

  • We Don't Know Your Cousin Mike From Vancouver

  • British Columbia Is Not In Britain. Or South America. (Google it)

  • We Know More About America Than You Do About Canada

  • Sofa, Not Couch

  • Pop, Not Soda

  • Bathroom, Not Washroom

  • We Don't All Know How To Ski/Skate/Dogsled

  • It's Pronounced 'ZED'

  • Not All Of Us Like Hockey

  • We Don't All Want To Move To America

  • Our Mayors, For The Most Part, Don't (Allegedly) Smoke Crack

  • We're Sick Of Emailing Fox News About This, So For The Last Bloody Time, The 9/11 Bombers Did NOT Cross Over From Canada!

  • Next: The Most Canadian Words

  • Toonie

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A toonie is a $2 Canadian coin, which followed the cue of the loonie (named after the image of the aquatic bird that graces the $1 coin). <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Hey buddy, can I borrow a toonie? I need to get a Double Double (see the next slide)."

  • Double Double

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A Double Double refers to a coffee (often from Tim Hortons) with two creams and two sugars. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Yes, hi, I'd like to order a Double Double."

  • Gut-Foundered

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> When food, however unappealing it is, is all you <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/10/newfoundland-tourism-video-gutfoundered_n_3254578.html" target="_blank">crave at the end of the day. Or, you're just very hungry.</a> <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> “Your mind wanders when it’s gut-foundered. Is it going to be take-out? Is it going to be pizza?”

  • Shit-Kickers

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong>Shit-Kickers are nicknames for cowboy boots. Hee Haw! <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "I can't go to the Calgary Stampede without my shit-kickers."

  • Kitty-Corner

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Something that is in a diagonal direction from something else. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "The grocery store is kitty-corner to the school."

  • Chinook

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A warm wind that blows east over the Canadian Rockies, warming up Calgary in the winter. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "This chinook is giving me a headache."

  • Darts

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A slang term for cigarettes <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Get your darts out."

  • Stagette

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Stagette is another name for bachelorette party. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Are you heading out to that stagette this weekend? There's going to be a stripper."

  • Cowtown

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Cowtown is a nickname for Calgary. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "I've been living in Cowtown my entire life."

  • Gitch/Gotch

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Another name for underwear used mainly in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and often referring to men's or boys' briefs. A gotch refers to women's underwear. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Pull your pants up, I can see your gitch."

  • Bedlamer

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland, a bedlamer is a <a href="http://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/azindex/pages/291.html" target="_blank">seal that is not yet mature.</a> <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "This harp seal is giving me a hard time, it's such a bedlamer."

  • Toque

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A toque is a hat most people wear during winter months. And sometimes, you will see this hat reappear in the summer. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Listen son, don't go out into this weather without your toque."

  • Matrimonial Cake

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> No, no one is getting married. In Western Canada, a matrimonial cake is another term for a date square or tart. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "I wish this coffee shop had matrimonial cakes."

  • Rink Rat

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Someone who loves spending time on an ice rink. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "I can't get any ice time, I have to deal with all these rink rats."

  • Homo Milk

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Slang for homogenized whole milk, but shockingly, this term is actually used on milk packaging. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "When you go to the grocery store, don't forget to pick up the homo milk."

  • Two-Four

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Common slang for a case of 24 beers. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Are you heading to the beer store? Pick me up a 2-4 of Molson."

  • Pencil Crayon

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> The Canadian way of saying coloured pencil. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Do you have a pencil crayon in that pencil case?"

  • Pop

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Another word for soda. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "That can of pop has 200 calories."

  • Washroom

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Another word for bathroom or restroom. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "This washroom doesn't have any toilet paper."

  • Whaddya At

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Slang for "what are you doing" in Newfoundland. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Did you just get in? Whaddya at?"

  • Mickey

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> For the most part, a mickey is a flask-sized (or 375 ml) bottle of hard liqueur, but on the East Coast, a mickey is an airplane-sized bottle. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "We're going out tonight, can someone grab a mickey."

  • Zed

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Not a slang term, but this is how Canadians pronounce the letter "Z". Not zee.

  • Deke

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A hockey (surprise, surprise) technique when a player gets past their opponent by "faking it." It can also be used to replace the world detour. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "I am going to deke into the store after work."

  • Hydro

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> Hydro refers to electricity, particularly on your energy bill. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "My hydro bill went up $10 this month."

  • Mountie

    <strong>WHAT IT MEANS:</strong> A mountie is a nickname for a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. <strong>IN A SENTENCE:</strong> "Stop speeding, a mountie will catch you."

  • NEXT: 50 Of the Best Canadian Foods

  • Poutine

    Poutine — French fries generously slathered in gravy and cheese curds — is a classic Canadian treat that is said to have originated in Quebec in the 1950s. Since then, it has been adapted in many weird and wonderful ways from <a href="http://crownsalts.com/gardemanger/" target="_blank">gourmet versions with lobster</a> and <a href="http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca/menu.html" target="_blank">foie gras</a> to —believe it or not — a doughnut version. It's also inspired <a href="http://smokespoutinerie.com/" target="_blank">a crop of trendy "poutineries"</a> and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/14/doughnut-poutine-psycho-donuts_n_2875921.html" target="_blank">"poutition"</a> to make it Canada's official national dish.

  • Ketchup Chips

    There are some snacks that define a nation, but not many that taste good to only those who live there. What do we love? The fact they leave our fingers dyed red after we've had a whole bag. Ketchup has never tasted so salty, non-tomatoey and outright good. Our U.S. friends may go nutty over Doritos, but we love our ketchup chips. Did you know that <a href="http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/02/28/heres_why_you_cant_buy_chicken_and_waffle_chips_in_canada.html" target="_hplink"> Lay's dill pickle and Munchies snack mix are also exclusively Canadian?</a>

  • Maple Syrup

    What could be more Canadian than syrup that comes from the maple tree, whose iconic leaf has come to symbolize Canada and its national pride? Quebec is the largest producer of maple syrup in the world, accounting for about 75 to 80 percent of the supply. Maple syrup — <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1372549/Maple-syrup-joins-ranks-broccoli-blueberries-new-stop-shop-superfood.html" target="_blank">recently elevated to "superfood" status</a> — is a classic sweet topping on pancakes and waffles. Still, that hasn't stopped some people from thinking of surprising savoury pairings such as <a href="http://www.toromagazine.com/lifestyle/food/toro-tv/c3df4a2e-74ba-c154-9172-99d497567a76/Caplanskys-Maple-Bacon-Donuts/" target="_blank">maple-bacon doughnuts</a>.

  • Bacon

    It's no secret that Canadians are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/15/tim-hortons-new-bacon-taste-test_n_2884834.html" target="_blank">obsessed with bacon</a>. The delicious cured pork product can be made oh so many ways, including ever popular strip bacon and peameal bacon, often referred to as "Canadian bacon" abroad. In fact, Canadians are so passionate about their favourite food that <a href="http://bacontoday.com/the-people-of-canada-choose-bacon-over-sex/" target="_blank">many would probably choose it over sex.</a>

  • Butter Tarts

    A butter tart is a classic Canadian dessert made with butter, sugar, syrup and eggs — filled in a buttery (yes, more grease) pastry shell, and often includes either raisins or nuts. They can be runny or firm — so it's hard to mess them up when you're baking. <a href="http://www.canadianliving.com/food/baking_and_desserts/best_butter_tarts.php" target="_blank">Also, they never seem to go out of style.</a>

  • BeaverTail

    BeaverTails, or <em>Queues de Castor</em> in French, is a famous trademarked treat made by a <a href="http://www.beavertailsinc.com/" target="_blank">Canadian-based chain of pastry stands</a>. The fried-dough treats are shaped to resemble real beaver tails and are often topped with chocolate, candy, and fruit. These Canadian delicacies go hand in hand with skiing, and even <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/17/beavertail-at-inauguration_n_2495957.html" target="_blank">gained White House recognition during U.S. President Barack Obama's 2009 trip to Ottawa.</a>

  • Nanaimo Bars

    These legendary Canadian no-bake treats originated in (surprise!) <a href="http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html" target="_blank">Nanaimo, B.C.,</a> and are typically made with graham-cracker crumbs, coconut, walnuts, vanilla custard and chocolate. Need we say more? Common variations include peanut butter and mint chocolate.

  • Game Meat

    No one likes to think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as dinner, but game meat is abundant in Canada and can be found in butchers, restaurants and homes across the country. Among other popular Canadian game is boar, bison, venison, caribou and rabbit.