Days before the federal budget is to be tabled, AbitibiBowater has announced it is filing a NAFTA Chapter 11 challenge against Canada for $500 million.
“Newfoundland is only taking back the land and water rights it lent Abitibi on condition they produce newsprint. If Abitibi is not going to do that any more, for whatever reason, the province is within its rights to reclaim the land and demand the company clean up what’s left,” states Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew.
“Unfortunately, we are bound to NAFTA rules that mean the public could pay a corporation like Abitibi for the privilege of not employing people,” says Trew. “The prime minister should take immediate steps to remove Chapter 11 from NAFTA.”
“If the case were to succeed, water would be transformed from being public trust to a private property right of every company in the country with a water use permit – from the tar sands to the local bottled water plant,” says Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow.
Before the Abitibi lawsuit, several other claims have drawn negative attention to NAFTA’s investment chapter, including a $2-million challenge in April 2009 from American chemical company Dow Agrosciences to Quebec’s cosmetic pesticide law, and another lawsuit in Atlantic Canada against an environmental assessment that eventually cancelled a planned quarry.
The Abitibi challenge brings the combined total of current Chapter 11 claims against Canada to over $1.5 billion.
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, about 40 per cent of the challenges to government policy under NAFTA’s Chapter 11 have been against environmental policies.
“Given these facts, it is a disgrace that Canada did not remove Chapter 11 from NAFTA years ago. Even worse, the Harper government is now vigorously pushing to include an identical investment chapter in trade talks with Europe,” adds Barlow.
“During the upcoming federal budget debates, MPs should question the true costs of NAFTA. And they should demand that no Chapter 11 provision is in the sweeping Canada-European Union agreement currently being negotiated,” concludes Barlow.