MONTREAL and OTTAWA, April 27 /CNW/ - Since coming to power the minority
government of Stephen Harper has vigorously pursued preferential free
trade with despots abroad and spared no quarter for democracy at home,
says a broad group of Canadian organizations which are demanding a new
foreign policy and trade approach by the next government.
The Harper government is moving stealthily and quickly to complete the
biggest trade deal Canada has ever seen with the European Union, which
will fundamentally reshape our national and local economies while
undermining environmental policy, public services and democratic
decision making. Harper has also rewarded foreign investors for suing
Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement's investor-state
provisions while Canadian investors applaud Canada's trade negotiations
with some of this hemisphere's worst human rights abusers such as
Colombia and Honduras.
We, civil society networks and organizations from Canada and Quebec say
An end to investor-state clauses in trade agreements
Both Common Frontiers-Canada and the Québec Network on Continental
Integration believe that free trade agreements modelled after the
flawed NAFTA pose an unacceptable risk by diminishing governments'
right to set public policy. A recent case is the August 2010
record-setting $130 million settlement given AbitibiBowater by Ottawa.
AbitibiBowater closed its pulp and paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor,
Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) in 2008 claiming rights to sell its
assets including timber harvesting licenses and water use permits.
These permits are a public trust owned by the Province, not by private
firms. When the NL government moved to re-appropriate them as a right
under Canadian law, AbitibiBowater sidestepped the Canadian court
system by challenging the NL government in a NAFTA tribunal. However,
rather than defend the principle of public ownership, the federal
government settled AbitibiBowater's claim before it could be heard.
We call on the next government of Canada to follow the lead of Australia
and eliminate investor-state provisions from trade agreements,
Call off the perimeter security deal with the US
Last February Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama announced a
secretive 'security perimeter' plan whose details can't be shared with
Parliament or the public - despite it posing a risk to Canadian
The private sector has agitated since 9/11 for Canada and Mexico to take
on as their own the US's security agenda. The Beyond the Border perimeter security plan will establish a common understanding of the
"threat environment", which we think will inevitably be defined by US
interests. This approach to perimeter security will mean a jointly
patrolled outer perimeter under US control. Another possible result
could be the merging of Canadians' personal information into joint
databases that are accessible to US security and law enforcement.
We call on Canadians to oppose the secretive Beyond the Border security
No trade deals with despots.
Negotiating free trade agreements with the likes of Colombia, Honduras,
and most recently Panama, is sending a signal to the rest of the world
that Canada is a country where the pursuit of mining and bank profits
trumps human rights. In spite of the systematic killings of dozens of
trade unionists every year in Colombia, Conservatives and Liberals
teamed up to hurry ratification of a Canada-Colombia FTA through
Parliament before the 2010 summer recess. Canada just signed a trade
agreement with Panama, a country widely known as a 'fiscal paradise'
that turns a blind eye to the laundering of drug cartel money. Canada
is currently engaged in a series of secretive trade talks with the
illegitimate government of Honduras - a country that lost its seat at
the Organization of American States due to the recent military coup and
ongoing human rights abuses. Canada's former image as 'good neighbour'
is being shredded before our eyes, and there could be no clearer proof
of this than the recent vote against Canada having a seat on the UN
We need to discuss Canada's foreign policy and trade directions
The Québec Network on Continental Integration and Common
Frontiers-Canada decry the lack of foreign policy discussion in these
elections. It is now time for the candidates to focus on the free trade
agenda that is contributing to making Canada and the world a much more
unequal place while destroying our image on the international stage.
The next government of Canada must commit to an extensive debate on an
alternative model of integration - one that privileges the equitable
distribution of wealth and guarantees peoples' economic, social,
cultural and environmental rights, over and against the ambitions of
the trans-national corporations and their quest for profits at all
For further information:
Common Frontiers: Rick Arnold, tel. # (905) 352-2430; firstname.lastname@example.org
RQIC: Pierre-Yves Serinet, tel. 514-276-1075; email@example.com