Last Wednesday’s paper featured an article about a couple of resolutions recently adopted at the convention of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The first one is resolution A5, an Environmental Bill of Rights which recognizes the “right of every resident to live in a healthy environment, including the right to clean air, clean water, clean food and vibrant ecosystems”. The second, resolution B34, brought forward at the convention by the CVRD, asks the province and the Ministry of Energy and Mines “not to issue permits that contravene local zoning bylaws”.
Your article quoted Sonia Furstenau, CVRD director for Shawnigan Lake, saying the adoption of these resolutions has given her new hope “the plight of her community will not continue to be ignored by those with the power to create change”. I however, reading the piece, had a disconcerting feeling of living in a house of mirrors.
I have written to this paper before about my misgivings concerning the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) which has just been finalized by the 12 nations it encompasses, including Canada. Throughout the years the TPP has been negotiated, the citizens of the nations involved have been kept in the dark about the points being negotiated. The few bits of information we have are thanks to Wikileaks getting hold of certain portions of the drafts. Those few bits are worrying.
One of the more problematic portions of the TPP is the inclusion of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) model. ISDS allows corporations to sue governments if environmental, public health or any other laws or regulations stand in the way of said corporation making profit. The settlement of such suits takes place in a private tribunal, completely outside the court of law of the country involved. Gus van Harten, professor at Ontario’s Osgoode Law School has said, under this trade deal, “U.S., Japanese, Malaysian, and other foreign companies would get a new power to sidestep Canada’s legal system by bringing a TPP lawsuit against Canada”, see www.rabble.ca, “Ten ways the TPP gives too much power to foreign investors.”
I would think an Environmental Bill of Rights or local zoning bylaws are exactly the kind of things which could hinder a foreign corporation from realizing the full potential of its investment and trigger an ISDS challenge. We in the South End already feel betrayed in the matter of the toxic soil dumping decision. The ISDS provision in the more recent trade deals negotiated by Ottawa, TPP and CETA, makes me feel even more powerless to protect my environment.