Consultation Under Fire as First Nation Fights Canada-China Treaty in Court
A small Vancouver Island First Nation is contesting a Canadian Federal Court decision involving a treaty between Canada and China that they say endangers their right to be consulted on resource projects and other matters.
Lawyers for the Hupacasath First Nation have filed an appeal with the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals to get another hearing for their case against the deal, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), which the First Nation says could threaten indigenous sovereignty. The Canadian federal government is expected to file later this month.
“This is an important case for First Nations because no court has ever ruled on when and how the Canadian government should be required to consult with First Nations on international treaties,” said Brenda Sayers, a Hupacasath tribe member and organizer.
The 300-member Vancouver Island First Nation is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The tribe is underwriting the appeal with $228,000 it raised through the online advocacy group Leadnow, as well as the Council of Canadians.
The Canada-China investor protection deal was finalized in September 2012. The agreement between Canada and the People’s Republic of China protects and promotes Canadian investment abroad and promotes foreign investment in Canada. In June 2013 the First Nation argued its case in court, and in August, Chief Justice Paul Crampton ruled that Hupacasath legal arguments didn’t establish that Canada should have consulted and accommodated them before ratifying the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China.
The tribe’s reasons for appealing the decision are twofold, Sayers said. First, that Crampton didn’t understand the impact FIPPA would have on Hupacasath's right to self-government; and two, that the court didn’t apply the correct legal test in determining when the Canadian government’s duty to consult with First Nations is triggered.
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