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The Council and allies reject NAFTA Chapter 11 payment to Bilcon over Digby Neck quarry

The Council of Canadians joined with Unifor Canada, the Sierra Club, the Trade Justice Network, Ecology Ottawa and allies on Parliament Hill this afternoon to say no to a likely $570 million NAFTA Chapter 11 payment to US-based Bilcon. This is the written text of my comments at that rally today:

Let us begin by acknowledging what we all know to be true – there is very clearly a problem with the North American Free Trade Agreement.

If we can have a situation, as we do with Bilcon, in which it is fairly determined that a proposed quarry on the Bay of Fundy would have a “significant adverse affect” on the community, and the company wanting to build that quarry can claim that decision is arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory, and a NAFTA panel can then rule “community core values” is not “rational government policy”, then NAFTA is a problem.

If governments cannot say no to a 152-hectare, two million tonne a year gravel extraction operation because it negatively impacts people, surrounding communities and the local economy, then NAFTA is a problem.

If we cannot say no to bulk carrier ships moving 40,000 tons of crushed stone a week near the breeding grounds of endangered right whales, then NAFTA is a problem.

How can it possibly be that the transnational corporation behind an extractive project like this is now poised to receive a $570 million payout of public funds? As Ecojustice lawyer Amir Attaran has pointed out, this potential half billion dollar payment of our money would be enough to pay the salaries of at least 7,000 nurses or teachers for one year!

As Council of Canadians honorary chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, this is disgraceful.

Making this situation worse, this isn’t the first time Canada has been sued under the Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement provision in NAFTA.

Our friends at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives highlight that Canada has been sued 41 times in this way – with the total claims adding up to almost $3 billion!

Furthermore, two-thirds of those Chapter 11 challenges against Canda by transnational corporations relate to environmental protection policies.

And yet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to defend this provision in the current and ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA with the United States and Mexico.

We think that is wrong.

We join with our allies here today to say that Chapter 11, the so-called ‘investment protection’ provision, should be removed from NAFTA.

To join the growing number of people who have signed our online petition calling on Trudeau to drop Chapter 11 from NAFTA, please click here.