On Feb. 4, 2016, trade representatives from 12 countries gathered to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
Over 40 per cent of the global economy is represented by Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei and Japan — the signatory countries.
Criticized for five years of secret negotiations that ultimately place corporate rights above the rights of the people, the land and the water, the TPPA has been dubbed as “an international Corporate Bill of Rights.”
Canadian Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland, joined 11 other representatives to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement last week.
The TPPA stands to erase, not only the rights of average Canadians, but also the rights of Indigenous peoples, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
Despite Justin Trudeau’s promises for “a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples, one that understands the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations people in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation,” the Prime Minister remains wordless on how the agreement will impact promises he has made the Indigenous peoples of this country.
According to a pre-election statement released on Oct. 15, 2015 by the Liberal Party regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet “strongly supports free trade.”
Free trade agreements have a dubious history with Indigenous peoples globally. These agreements use language that favours large investors in the areas of public health, medicine, human rights, intellectual property rights and the environment.
Proponents of the TPPA say that the agreement aims to break down trade and investment barriers to create more jobs. Canada’s economy relies heavily upon the production and transportation of crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands, but nowhere in the Liberal Party’s statement is that infrastructure mentioned, instead they mention the auto sector and Canadian manufacturers.
The Prime Minister has recently been criticized for his soft response to questions regarding the controversial Energy East project, perhaps signaling small steps away from his electoral promises.
“We need to get those resources to market, whether it is Energy East, whether it is a western pipeline, whether it is Keystone XL because the alternative is more rail cars carrying oil,” Trudeau said in an interview with CBC Radio.
When asked about Trudeau’s response to the approval of the Energy East project, which would seek to cross 4000 kilometres over the traditional territory of 180 First Nations, the Liberal press secretary replied that, “they will reach out to First Nations ‘where appropriate’ and engage in ‘meaningful’ consultation when necessary.”
What a stark contrast to Trudeau’s previously enigmatic promises to uphold his “sacred obligations.”
While the Liberal government pushes for partnership based on sustainable, economic development that benefits “all Canadians,” Indigenous peoples across the country are left searching for adequate housing, answers for the alarming suicide rates within our communities, many people seek clean drinking water while the sacred feminine is met with physical and environmental violence every, single day.
Consultation remains a contentious issue. “The New Zealand government has bypassed Indigenous involvement at every level. This complete lack of consultation also contravenes the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and this government has no right to sign this deal without our Free, Prior and Informed Consent,” said the Tangata Whenua in a statement released last Friday.
The Tangata Whenua, also known as Maori, led a march of thousands of people, winding through the streets of Auckland to voice their opposition the day the TPPA was signed. Protesters also blockaded the building where the agreement was signed.
According to Illana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, the TPPA gives “enormous new power to big polluters, to multi-national corporations and really threatens the ability of governments to put in place the policies that are so needed to tackle climate change.”
Canada’s tarsands contribute heavily to Canadian economy (and greenhouse emissions), so contention arises regarding the impact of resource extraction, its transportation, and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). According to Tengata Whenua, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is “part of a neo-liberal structural adjustment programme to diminish and extinguish Indigenous rights forever.”
Despite governmental branding of the agreement as protection of domestic business and workers, citizens are saying otherwise — pointing to the secrecy of negotiations, lack of input through democratic mechanisms and the lack of consultation with Indigenous peoples.
Still, the countries are pushing forward, despite resounding protests in countries like New Zealand, the United States, Chile and Peru. Indigenous peoples globally are rising against the unilateral and colonial imposition of the international agreement.
However, there remain Indigenous proponents of the economic benefit from agreements such as these, like Eagle Spirit Energy or the Federation of Maori Authorities in New Zealand, through “sustainable development.”
The Tangata Whenua nation stated in a press release, “These neo-tribal capitalists are transparent in their greed and their neo-liberal modus operandi. Their bottom line and profit puts the interests of the dairy industry and the tribal capitalists ahead of the duty of care for our environment and our survival as Indigenous people.”
The current living circumstances of Indigenous peoples globally prove that Tangata Whenua’s analysis of the TPPA and its impact on the people, land and water is relevant and too important to ignore much longer.
The Investor-State dispute settlement clause would make it illegal to stop resource extraction at an international level, trumping any domestic laws that exist, including treaties.
The TPPA only mentions the Treaty of Waitangi, 1840, in regards to Indigenous treaty. Many argue over the validity of that treaty as many chiefs, both in New Zealand and Canada, signed under duress or refused to sign.
Despite a lack of consensus, Britain declared themselves sovereign over the Tangata Whenua territory. The Treaty of Waitangi resembles the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Royal Proclamation entrenches the Indigenous right to self-determination and title over the land, unless signed away by treaty. Many of our chiefs opposed the roots of colonialism, yet the process happened and continues to happen, through agreements such as the TPPA.
Tangata Whenua oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement because of their responsibility to creation, creation’s children and the Creator. Natural law supercedes colonial law and in this knowledge, Tangata Whenua remain steadfast in their opposition to the TPPA.
Justin Trudeau has yet to release a statement about the TPPA, despite the recent signing. The agreement requires a majority vote in Parliament in order to be ratified, which could take up to two years. Time will tell whether Trudeau will live up to the promises he has made with the people of this land. Up until now, he has not acknowledged that such an important agreement has been signed, much less the impacts that this agreement will have on the people that he has been politically wooing since being elected Prime Minister.