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NAFTA negotiations: Over 10,000 Canadians want Chapter 11 jettisoned

Ottawa – As NAFTA talks start today in Washington D.C. and negotiators work out positions on the Chapter 11 Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, the Council of Canadians reminds the government that 10,630 people have already sent letters asking for the elimination of Chapter 11. Over the summer, they wrote to Global Affairs and Prime Minister Trudeau through the Council’s website.

On Monday, Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined Canada’s negotiating position proposing tweaks to Chapter 11, suggesting that ISDS mechanisms in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could be used instead. She also outlined a labour and environment chapter.

“With Chapter 11 in place, it is all meaningless. You cannot protect climate and labour rights, and still give corporations this powerful right to undermine public legislation,” said Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

Canada has faced 38 Chapter 11 suits, two thirds-of them over environmental protections making Canada the most sued country in the developed world. At the moment, Canada is facing $2.6 billion in cases.

The Council also urged that Chapter 11 needs to be eliminated, not tweaked.

“The government has to be careful not to just change a few cosmetic details — like it did within CETA — but actually get rid of the system of investors’ rights in trade agreements,” said Barlow. “CETA’s ISDS system wouldn’t change much: All the egregious suits that Canada has faced would continue. It is still a system built on the primacy of investors’ rights over our democracies.”

Canadians also asked the government to eliminate the energy proportionality clause and protect water in the agreement. Canadians also believe that the negotiations should be transparent and support a U.S. initiative to release negotiating texts during the process.

This week, the Council of Canadians released their campaign for NAFTA’s negotiation including a four-day run on CBC’s The National. The campaign contains handimations in English, French and Spanish, fact sheets, and reports which encourage citizens to do their own lobbying on NAFTA.