The Comox Valley Council of Canadians organized a spirited and informative action on the Intercontinental Day of Action on “Corporate Rights” Agreements. The media release and rally took place on Friday, January 31 in downtown Courtenay. Eighty people participated in the event.
* We were honoured with the presence of Brenda Sayers who has spearheaded the Hupacasath First Nation’s court challenge to the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA). She spoke about the concerns of her own and other First Nations about the absence of consultation on this or any other trade agreement, and the potential they hold for loss of control over their land and resources.
* Hal Hewitt welcomed those who were gathered, spoke briefly about each of the agreements that Canada is currently negotiating in secret, and told us about the 40 actions that were taking place around the Pacific Rim. He has acted as the link between groups across Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Australia, and the Comox Valley Council of Canadians on a number of international conference calls over this last month.
* Barb Berger focussed on the “investor-state dispute mechanisms” that are in each of the current negotiations. She emphasized concerns about these new powers that make it possible for foreign corporations to sue us over any health, environmental, patent, human rights, water, utilities and even education legislation or policies that might impede a corporation’s “expected profit”. She also told us that several countries and the European Trade Commission were taking actions to withdraw from or moderate these agreements.
Participants in the event had questions for the speakers. They included concerns about issues that are particularly concerning to people in the Comox Valley: what effect might these agreements have on GMOs, the Raven coal mine, fish farms, temporary foreign workers, and the privatization of water, to name a few. The responses emphasized the concern about the “chill” that investor rights agreements could have on protecting the environment and our public services in all of these examples.
It was the weekend of World Community’s film festival, and Claire Gilmour took our concerns about trade agreements to the showing of “Fire in the Blood”. She spoke after the film about longer patent times for pharmaceuticals (and consequently higher drug costs for individuals and governments) that are included in the Trans Pacific Partnership and in the Canada European Trade Agreement.
Many participants wanted to know what we can do in the face of what can feel like an overwhelming set of issues. The answers – let your elected representatives know you are concerned, call for public reviews and votes, let your community know about the issues in as many ways as you can. Stay in touch with, or join the CV Chapter “Corporate Rights” working group for further actions.
We can all support the Hupacasath First Nation’s case at: www.wesstandtogether.ca