In recent days we’ve heard about the Canada-China trade agreement, but not enough. There are lawyers who dedicate their entire careers to working with constitutional law and there are trade experts who dedicate their careers to investment trade agreements.
Just because members of the public can read the various acts that make up the Constitution or the text of an agreement such as the Canada-China FIPA, it doesn’t mean we’ll understand much about them.
Gus Van Harten, on the other hand, is a global legal authority on investment trade agreements, having been on faculty at the London School of Economics and Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
Dr. Van Harten has published an open letter to Prime Minister Harper and International Trade Minister Ed Fast articulating 14 serious concerns and numerous questions about this risky treaty. Van Harten believes if ratified, it will disadvantage our country in terms of exposure to investor lawsuits.
It will also impact provincial powers on natural resources, taxation, and land and property rights.
And it will, he thinks, threaten federal legislative and judicial sovereignty.
Ratification will bind Canada for a minimum of 31 years to the seemingly dangerous and unconstitutional treaty.
There have been no public hearings or provincial consultations on the treaty. With no debate scheduled before the treaty’s ratification, MP Elizabeth May called for an emergency debate, but was ignored by the Harper government.
So rushed is the approach to finalizing the deal, the government will not have completed an assessment on the treaty’s environmental impacts on resource development until a week after the treaty is ratified.
Van Harten says there remains two ways to delay the treaty’s ratification.
Provinces go to court, calling for an injunction until the constitutional issues are resolved.
Or the public can pressure federal and provincial elected officials to stop the unnecessarily speedy ratification of a dangerous and consequential trade treaty and undertake what should have been undertaken long ago: public hearings, provincial consultation and Parliamentary debate.
Erika Tafel, Rock Creek