Determined to expose the risks of international trade deals, CUPE was present this week when a BC court began hearings on a crucial NAFTA appeal that threatens the environment, public services and democracy.
The case revolves around Metalclad a US waste disposal company that was refused permission to operate a toxic waste dump in Mexico. Metalclad filed suit under NAFTA, and was awarded US$16.7 in compensation.
This case highlights how an international trade agreement like NAFTA threatens democracy, said National President Judy Darcy, speaking at a news conference in Vancouver.
Were talking here about a Mexican municipality that denied a permit after local citizens mobilized to protest the toxic dump as a threat to their health. Then a faceless NAFTA panel awards damages because local officials listened to their citizens.
If thats not an attack on democracy, I dont know what is, said Darcy. And if it can happen under NAFTA then no city or town in Canada is safe.
To help put a human face on the problem, CUPE joined with Greenpeace to invite to Canada two Mexicans who had played key roles in opposing the toxic dump.
Babies were born with birth defects and the incidence of cancer was high, said Fernando Bejarano of Greenpeace Mexico. People thought this was connected with earlier dumping at the site. An independent panel raised concerns about groundwater contamina-tion and called for the site to be cleaned up immediately.
CUPE will continue to pursue this case, pressing the Canadian government to protect governments authority to govern in the public interest. Of great concern is the move to extend the powers that NAFTA gives to corporations to other treaties including the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and the WTOs General Agreement on Trade in Services.