Officials with the Hupacasath First Nation are mulling their legal options now that Canada has ratified its foreign investment deal with China.
The development comes even though the Canadian Federal Court has yet to rule on whether or not the Hupacasath should have been consulted about it first.
Canadian federal minister of international trade Ed Fast announced the signing in a short press release on Sept. 19. The 31-year agreement is slated to come into effect on Oct. 1.
“The Canada-China FIPA will help ensure that Canadian companies doing business in China are treated fairly and benefit from a more predictable and transparent business environment,” Fast said. “It will give Canadian investors in China the same types of protections that foreign investors have long had in Canada.”
Aboriginal people should be more concerned about the broader context of the agreement, Hupacasath spokesperson Brenda Sayers said. “We’re already seeing First Nations protesting resource extraction. But this agreement makes it more challenging for their interests to be considered,” she said. “And Canada has already said it will fulfill its obligations under this agreement.”
Tribal officials are waiting for the federal court decision of its appeal. A Supreme Court of Canada appeal is possible. “But there’s no guarantee they’ll hear it,” Sayers said.
The Canada-China investor protection deal was finalized in 2012.
The agreement is between Canada and the People’s Republic of China. It protects and promotes Canadian investment abroad through legally binding provisions as well as to promote foreign investment in Canada.
The abruptness of the development caught the Hupacasath, which spearheaded a court action aimed at stopping the ratification, cold.
“I’m shocked that the government would do this. We weren’t expecting this at all,” Sayers said. “Stephen Harper took it upon himself to make this decision instead of leaving it for the court to decide. The people of Canada should be alarmed that our constitutional rights have been stolen from our hands.”
The tribe initiated and lost a federal court challenge against the agreement last year.
“We’ve been respecting due process but Stephen Harper hasn’t. We’ve been dealing in good faith and didn’t get it in return,” Sayers said.
According to Sayers, the agreement contains provisions that interfere with governments’ policies around the environment, therefore it requires Ottawa to consult First Nations.