I am a retired police officer and can hardly be described as a placard-toting radical. The thought of “civil disobedience”, in my opinion is still breaking the law. That said, I attended a forum at the Florence Filberg Centre on Thursday evening, March 26 where a discussion pertaining to trade agreements and treaties was presented by Alice de Wolff, the local chairperson for the Council of Canadians, Brenda Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nations and finally Ellen Gould of the Centre of Policy Alternatives.
At the end of the presentations, I was left with a profound sense that our sovereignty as a nation is at risk and that the effectiveness of our high courts to intervene in disputes between corporations, governments (at all levels) and nations could very well be superseded by tribunals. These are not agreements where “I buy your corn and you buy my wheat” but rather these agreements enshrine investor rights and corporations as if they were persons.
The proposed agreements involving European nations on one hand and Pacific Rim nations on the other will affect our way of life and our children’s ability to earn a living in the future and yet our federal government moves ahead on these treaties in secrecy with only minimal information being released prior to ratification.
To the naysayers, Ms. De Wolff, Ms. Sayers and Ms. Gould point to the province of Newfoundland where taxpayers were forced to pay AbitibiBowater $130 million in such a dispute over water and timber rights. For those involved in the softwood forestry industry, how has NAFTA worked for you?
I say again that these treaties will potentially affect our municipal governments’ and provincial governments’ ability to enter into contracts and also unions and local businesses may well find themselves competing against foreign corporations for jobs here at home.
So I am left with the question: why were there no MP, MLA, city council members or rural directors, unions or businesses in attendance at this most important information meeting? Where are your voices in all of this? Once our federal government ratifies these agreements, it will be too late as Ms. Sayers has witnessed.
Perhaps it is time to pick up a placard!