Inter-Continental protest against corporate power included Comox Valley
The Comox Valley and other communities throughout the Pacific Rim banded together Friday on the Inter-Continental Day of Action against trade deals and corporate power.
The local chapter of the Council of Canadians, which organized a gathering at the corner of Fifth and England in downtown Courtenay, fears trade agreements will make it more difficult for Valley residents to protect and strengthen public services and the environment.
The council says the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens Canada's ability to make local, democratic decisions. Among other things, it says Canadians have paid $160 million, and are facing another $2.5 billion, in North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) claims.
"Our public health care system has been challenged," council member Barb Biley said. "Safety and building codes are at risk. Green jobs and sustainable energy are being threatened. Challenges made because Crown corporations give preferential treatment. Pharmaceutical companies failing to deliver on drug promises are challenging patent laws."
She also noted part-time jobs have replaced full-time employment and benefits.
"We've seen an increase in privatization of all things publicly run," Biley said. "The destruction of our cities from unprecedented environmental and climate prices is worsening."
Brenda Sayers, a councillor for the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni, spoke about a court challenge against Canada’s ratification of a 31-year treaty with China — the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA). The band argued government has a duty to consult with First Nations on matters that could affect indigenous land rights and the environment. The Hupacasath lost the initial court case but is appealing the decision.
"The court at the lower level levied a charge of $110,000 against our nation," Sayers said. "Why? Because they didn't want us to go forward.
"It was a tactic to tell us that we had done something wrong and we should stop. But we haven't, because we want to assert our rights."
Sayers has travelled the country speaking about the implications of the investor-state FIPPA treaty. She has raised about $500,000, which will go towards legal fees.
"In total we have over 27 organizations that support what we are doing," Sayers said. "We're looking for more organizations to sign on and stand beside us, and work towards making FIPPA a household word. It deserves to be a household word because it undermines our rights as Canadians."
She says the investor-state arbitration clause also needs to become a household word.
"It gives China the right to sue Canada for anything that interferes with their ability to make a profit," Sayers said.