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UN Rejects Meeting With First Nations Community Over Trade Agreement

New law could give China immunity from environmental, labor rules protecting First Nations from foreign industry

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

Photo via Flickr / Caelie_Frampton / Creative Commons License

Following a Canada-wide tour of First Nations communities by the United Nations rapporteur on indigenous rights this week, the international body has rejected a request from the Hupacasath First Nation to meet over a major trade pact between Canada and China they say will result in the destruction of vast swathes of First Nations land.

According to the Hupacasath, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) would allow Chinese businesses to sue Canadian local or national governments if their laws block them from turning profits in Canada. As the First Nations rights group Idle No More said in an earlier press release, "This includes any environmental protection rules that China’s government does not agree with," and would put Canadian employment standards "on the chopping block" within Chinese companies operating in Canada.

China would also be immune to having to pay for clean-up costs associated with an oil spill or other environmental disaster, amongst many other laws protecting Firsts Nations and Canadian people from corporate harm, the group warns.

"The Hupacasath say the FIPA will essentially override indigenous Canadians' aboriginal right to resources on its lands — the ability to govern the ecosystems on their lands," reports Al Jazeera.

The UN trip brought rapporteur James Anaya around Canada to asses what Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam referred to as the federal government's "unrelenting attacks on indigenous sovereignty and treaties."

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However, the Hupacasath say they were snubbed by Anaya, who said he did not have time to meet with them over their grievance.

"I did write an email. I received a letter back saying that his schedule was full," Brenda Sayers, a Hupacasath member heading a campaign to block the FIPA, told Al Jazeera. "Unfortunately, the Hupacasath won't have a chance to chat with him about the overriding issue in Canada. The FIPA will override our rights to say no to major pipelines and logging of our original territory here."

A federal court recently denied the Hupacasath's legal bid to stop the FIPA and ordered them to pay $106,331 of the government's legal fees from the case.

A UN public report on Anaya’s findings will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014 but will now likely lack an analysis of this case.

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