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Chilliwack, BC, Unceded Sto:Lo Territories—Following a week of epoch-making demonstrations against tar sands pipelines in BC, local residents have taken to the streets again. Chilliwack community members gathered at Conservative MP Mark Strahl’s office on Halloween to raise questions about his party’s support for tar sands expansion, the Harper government’s recent use of omnibus legislation to dismantle environmental laws and support foreign corporate interests.
At issue are changes to environmental legislation such as the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Act, and the government’s ongoing support of foreign corporate interests through agreements such as the China-Canada Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA). This agreement gives corporations the right to sue Canadian governments if they impose regulations that undermine the ability to make a profit. Mark Strahl was invited to speak to the crowd and share his personal opinion on the agreement and its link to Kinder Morgan’s transport of tar sands bitumen through Chilliwack. He declined.
“This is a fun event, but the issues we raise are very serious," asserts Sheila Muxlow, event co-coordinator. "Members of the Harper government continue to support the implementation of policies that enable the rights of tar sands corporations over the rights of their constituents. We are a growing local movement to stop the export of tar sands through the Kinder Morgan pipeline. PIPE UP members want to ensure the protection of our local drinking water sources, better economic choices and preservation of property values. We want to put Mark Strahl on notice that he must be accountable to our local interests and not to just his party’s policies.”
Along with moves like removing the power of the National Energy Board to deny pipeline proposals, and exempting pipeline projects from environmental review of their impact on Canada’s waterways, the Harper government will ratify the China-Canada Foreign Investor Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA) on November 1. This is another drastic new law enacted without any public discussion or debate.
FIPA is an investor rights agreement that strengthens the corporate interests of companies in both China and Canada. The treaty is similar to the investment chapter (Chapter 11) in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has resulted in almost $170 million in payouts to U.S. corporations. FIPA is also similar to several free trade deals and investment treaties Canada has signed with developing countries, including Colombia and Peru, where the Harper government wants Canadian mining companies to be able to challenge provincial governments for any delays to their own projects.
Unlike existing deals, the China FIPA guarantees excessive investment protections to Chinese firms for fifteen years plus another fifteen should the treaty be cancelled. These treaties bind the country regardless of changes in federal or provincial governments. Any province or First Nation with Chinese investment in natural assets has the right and responsibility to challenge the constitutionality of FIPA, according to legal experts. This trade agreement threatens to undermine Canadian & First Nations’ sovereignty and seriously compromises the constitutional rights of the First Nations and the province under Section 35 and Section 92 of the Constitution Act (1982), respectively.
“We need debate of this agreement” says Eddie Gardner, a representative of the PIPE UP Network and member of the Skwah First Nation. “First Nations and the province must be consulted and there should be an open public debate on an agreement this significant. We really hope that politicians can move past their party affiliations and recognize that more than ever they need to speak for the interests of local residents to ensure our democratic rights to say no to destructive industrial developments and the corporations who want to push them through.”