Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Signals In The CETA Negotiations

Harper has often revealed bits about his intentions when he is engaged in foreign affairs.  What has recently emerged during the CETA negotiations is particularly troublesome.

It seems that the Harper Government is objecting to a clause that ties back to the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

The language on human rights in the Canada-EU framework is apparently very similar to the EU deal with Colombia and Peru, which allows either party to revoke any trade and investment benefits in the event of a serious breach of human rights by the other party. Canada objects to the idea that CETA, an economic agreement, could be suspended for violations of the political framework agreement.
The first article of the EU-Colombia/Peru agreement states:
Respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and for the principle of the rule of law, underpins the internal and international policies of the Parties. Respect for these principles constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.
Article 8.3 of the treaty says:
Without prejudice to the existing mechanisms for political dialogue between the Parties, any Party may immediately adopt appropriate measures in accordance with international law in case of violation by another Party of the essential elements referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of this Agreement. The latter Party may ask for an urgent meeting to be called to bring the Parties concerned together within 15 days for a thorough examination of the situation with a view to seeking an acceptable solution. The measures will be proportional to the violation. Priority will be given to those which least disturb the functioning of this Agreement. These measures shall be revoked as soon as the reasons for their adoption have ceased to exist.
If you are puzzled by this roadblock, so are others.  Apparently, The Harper Government is objecting on the basis that this somehow an "infringement" on sovereignty.

The first thing that goes through my mind on this is that Harper is full of nonsense.  Canada has always been a supporter of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is considerably broader than the UN Declaration.  To say that a trade agreement which contains a clause that obliges the signatory governments to actually abide by those human rights principles is an infringement on sovereignty is silly.

Unless you are Stephen Harper, of course.  We should note that Harper has always viewed the Charter as something of an impediment, especially with respect to the Conservative "tough-on-everyone-but-Conservatives" crime agenda.

Should Canadians be wary?  Oh yes, they should.  Harper has already passed quite a bit of legislation which is, at best, sketchy with respect to the Charter.  Is he moving to erode rights and freedoms?  Absolutely.  Remember Vic Toews' internet spying bill?  I don't think it's entirely dead within Harper's designs.

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