NFU fears democracy in decline with Canada-EU trade agreement

Bill C-18 passed third reading Monday, Nov. 24 and was forwarded to the Senate for review.

Bill C-18 passed third reading Monday, Nov. 24 and was forwarded to the Senate for review. With the bill’s close ties to the Canadian/European Union Comprehensive Trade Agreement (CETA), the National Farmers Union is less than pleased with the recent progress.

Canada and the European Union are aiming for CETA to be ready for ratification in early to mid-2015.

National Farmers Union (NFU) president Jan Slomp says with the progression of CETA and Bill C-18, Canadian citizens are losing their right to democracy and that they impede public interest in the agricultural industry.

“CETA is clearly a ‘bill of rights’ for corporations. It fundamentally undermines our democracy and stands in the way of setting public policy for the health of our environment and Canadians,” said Slomp in a media statement released Nov. 24.

“We lose our democratic control over our own affairs,” he added.

CETA contains an Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) mechanism that will force governments to financially compensate foreign corporations for lost profits. Slomp is calling that the “most contentious” aspect of the trade agreement.

For example, there is at least one corporation using neonicotinoid as a seed treatment and the chemical, after research stemming from a dramatic loss of the bee population 2006, was found to have high toxicity levels for insects. In 2013, the American Bird Conservancy also called for a ban on the substance due its ability to affect entire food chains.

However, the ISDS would prompt payments to corporations using the chemical, for a loss of revenue if neonicotinoid was ever banned in Canada.

“What it means is power is given to the investors,” said Slomp.

Bill C-18 also tightly restricts the re-use of seeds by farmers. “Meaning the farmers have lost the right to harvest their seeds . . . that used to be a right, now it’s a privilege,” said Slomp.

He says, the privilege must first be approved by the Plant Breeders Rights; who stand to benefit from the re-seeding restrictions.

Through CETA, if a farmer is alleged to have infringed the seeding restrictions, their bank account can be frozen and movable and unmovable assets seized, such as equipment.

Slomp labels it as another breakdown in democracy. “In Canada we’re innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

With farmers being manipulated to buy seed every year, Slomp says steep royalties and new levies could be imposed, including an end-point royalty forcing farmers to pay from every ton of product.

“We need governments in Canada to be able to create policies and regulations that protect our food sovereignty and our environment,” said NFU vice president of policy Ann Slater in the media release.