The imperial Chinese government, as Dr. Henry Kissinger lovingly relates in his recent On China, was in the habit of giving Panda bears, among other things, as gifts to barbarian states and tribes, in the belief that barbarians were easily distracted and susceptible to flattery.
It seems the modern Communist Party have not abandoned that particular policy. And alas, it seems it still works.
Stephen Harper came back from a visit to China last fall, which received really quite sparse coverage in the Canadian media, with two panda bears. He presented them to the Toronto Zoo, where fawning crowds were waiting to watch them eat.
Because what he didn’t make anywhere near as clear, upon his arrival back in the country, was that he had signed a massive trade deal with China. It’s only really been prominent in the news for the past week, when it’s almost imminently going to pass. Here it is.
Did you click the link? Did you attempt to read it? Did you give up in despair before you’d even really scrolled through the first articles?
Don’t worry. So did I. That’s what you were supposed to do. You weren’t actually supposed to read it. You’re not supposed to be able to understand it.
The thing about this treaty is that it’s actually impossible to read without legal training, as a good friend of mine going into her second year of law school informed me when I showed it to her. It’s such an impenetrable thicket of legalese that the layperson is simply unable to read it. It’s likely that not that many MPs have read it. Not all of them are lawyers.
Because it’s quite literally selling the ground out from beneath you.
If you knew that, you’d probably kick up a fuss. Which would be inconvenient, to say the least. So Harper hid it in plain sight.
It’s got some truly horrifying implications for Canadian law, which neither I, nor my friend, claim to understand fully, not having spent several years studying international trade law.
But we’ve at least read the damn thing. And we’ve found some terrifying things buried in there. Buried at the back. Long after the point any sensible human being has given up reading.
But not a law student. Like my friend Kylie Thomas. Or Osgoode Law School constitutional scholar Gus van Harten, who thinks it’s unconstitutional, for what it’s worth. And even from our cursory, fumbling reading of the bill, the evil comes through pretty palpably.
Article 11, for example, which obliges both governments to recoup losses that companies suffer due to ‘war, a state of national emergency, insurrection, [a] riot, or [an]other similar event.’ This effectively gives the Canadian government justification to deem a protest a riot, and break it up citing its need to protect Chinese investments under this FIPA.
Or Article 17, in which both parties are ‘encouraged’ to ‘publish in advance any measure that it proposes to adopt’, and ‘provide interested persons and the other Contracting party [with] a reasonable opportunity to comment on the proposed measure.’
Encouraged. Not obliged in any way.
Or Article 18, in which it is deemed ‘inappropriate’ for either party to encourage investment by waiving, relaxing, or otherwise derogating from domestic health, safety or environmental measures.’
Inappropriate. To override almost all provincial law regarding our health care system, our police forces, and our environmental regulations.
But the real kicker is this one. Article 21. While observance of most Canadian laws are merely ‘encouraged’, and the overriding of almost all provincial legislation is merely ‘inappropriate’, both parties ‘shall,’ the strongest binding legal term used in this document, ‘first hold consultations in an attempt to settle a claim amicably’ when there is a treaty dispute.
Those claims will be settled by a three-person tribunal. One Canadian, one Chinese citizen, and one foreign national, whose identity will be mutually agreed. That’s in article 24.
So basically, the tie breaking vote on this tribunal will always be a citizen of a country who is infinitely more interested in currying China’s favor than in protecting Canadian citizens.
This tribunal ‘shall’ have its findings made publicly available, ‘subject to the redaction of confidential information.’ But only when it’s ‘in the public interest.’ Which is straight out of Yes, Minister.
But the contracting governments ‘may share with their officials of their respective federal and sub-national governments.’ May. They don’t have to.
And if a third party is affected by a dispute? Like a first nations band? Or a provincial government that is about to see its environmental protections gutted? They can submit to this tribunal.
But their submissions cannot be more than twenty pages long. Their application can only be five. Essentially meaning that the exercise of trying to protest this tribunal’s decisions would be ultimately pointless and unrewarding. That part’s buried in Annex C-29. Literally at the end of the document.
In the idiotic preamble on the Harper clique’s website explaining what FIPA’s actually are, it gets pointed out that Canada has signed FIPA’s in the past with countries including Hungary, Latvia, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Venezuela.
But of course, none of these countries remotely compare to China in size and power. We are the junior partner in this agreement. The one who can be safely ignored.
Much as we were with NAFTA. The last trade treaty Canada signed that had this kind of scope and significance. Of course, we fought a bloody election over it, and freely chose as a people to sign it when we voted for Brian Mulroney. We didn’t have it snuck through the legislative backdoor by a vicious and corrupt petty despot and his henchmen.
Because that’s what’s happening. Right now. In your country.
If you’re angry, you should be. And you should tell people so. That’s the only chance we have of stopping this from happening. I’ll be publishing Kylie Thomas’ more detailed dissection of the treaty later next week.
In the meantime, I would ask that you share this. People should really know.