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NEWS: Grewal at FIPA protest outside Federal Court in Vancouver

Harjap Grewal

Harjap Grewal

The Globe and Mail reports, “A small First Nation on Vancouver Island has taken the federal government to court in an effort to defeat an international trade agreement Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed with then-president Hu Jintao of China. The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, or FIPPA, was signed last year. It was coming up for ratification in Ottawa last fall when the Hupacasath First Nation filed an action in Federal Court. The band is seeking an injunction on the grounds that, before signing any international agreement that could affect treaty rights, the government has an obligation to consult First Nations. …Brenda Sayers, a Hupacasath representative, said a logging company with Chinese investors, for example, could sue Canada for damages if the band stopped the company from cutting timber on its traditional territory. And she said if First Nations in northern British Columbia put up a blockade to the proposed Enbridge pipeline, that could open Canada to lawsuits by Chinese investors in Alberta’s oil sands.”

The article notes, “Sayers started a fundraising effort that has so far brought in more than $160,000, and she gained the backing of a wide number of groups, including the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the Chiefs of Ontario, the Council of Canadians, Leadnow, West Coast Environmental Law, B.C. Federation of Labour, BC Teachers Union and Canadian Auto Workers.”

The Canadian Press report adds, “About 150 people (some reports put the number higher) gathered at a rally Wednesday outside the federal court, which has set aside three days for a hearing. Critics of the deal cited a lawsuit launched under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement over the Quebec government’s moratorium on hydraulic fracking for shale gas. Calgary-based Lone Pine Resources Inc., has opened an office in Delaware and launched the lawsuit seeking $250 million from the federal government because its exploration permits were cancelled ‘without due process, without compensation’. ‘This is what investment protection looks like. It’s basically a bail-out for corporations when communities decide to say no’, Harjap Grewal, of the Council of Canadians, said at the noon-hour rally. ‘This court challenge by the Hucapasath is going to lead the way in showing how fundamentally flawed all of these agreements are.'”

And the Victoria Times Colonist reports, “It is not known when Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton will make a decision. ‘I think things are going really well. I’m feeling optimistic,’ said Sayers, after the first day of court wrapped up. …Ideally, if the ruling goes in favour of Hupacasath, the federal government may have to pull back and consult with First Nations across the country before negotiating a new agreement with China, said Judith Sayers, the National Aboriginal Economic Development Chair at the University of Victoria and former Hupacasath chief.”

Yesterday, Council of Canadians chapters joined solidarity rallies in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Comox Valley, Guelph and in other communities across the country. Board member Paul Manly produced a video that helped inform and mobilize people to join these rallies. Trade campaigner Stuart Trew recently completed a 6-city speaking tour against ‘trade’ deals; Brenda Sayers spoke at several of those events. And Council of Canadians supporters have played a significant role in helping to fund this legal challenge. To date, they have contributed almost $17,000. Notably, the Comox Valley chapter gave $2,700 and the Calgary chapter donated $400.

For more, please read:
Hundreds rally in support of Hupacasath legal challenge to Canada-China FIPA
ACTION: Rally with the Hupacasath against the Canada-China FIPA on June 5
UPDATE: $150,000 raised for Hupacasath challenge against Canada-China FIPA