People power, not corporate power! No ISDS in NAFTA
We just got some shocking news: that Canada “will oppose any effort to change" the most toxic part of NAFTA: the investor-state dispute resolution system (ISDS).1 It's a system that gives multinational corporations and wealthy investors special rights to sue Canada for passing laws or policies that might affect their future profits .2
Giant corporations use ISDS to challenge laws, regulations, or decisions they don't like — such as minimum wage hikes, environmental protections, and public health regulations. 3-5 Because of ISDS rules in NAFTA, Canada is the most sued country in the Global North, and is currently facing over $2.6 billion in ISDS lawsuits — which will be decided in secretive tribunals stacked with corporate lawyers, rather than in a Canadian court.6
Billionaire CEOs, the Chamber of Commerce, and an army of corporate lobbyists are desperate to entrench ISDS in a re-negotiated NAFTA because ISDS was designed, and works, for them — and it looks like Trudeau is caving. The head of the Business Council of Canada recently said he’s had “extensive opportunities” to meet with Canada’s top NAFTA negotiators are are “adamant” about keeping ISDS.7
But together we can push back. The Department of Foreign Affairs has set up a special inbox to collect public input on NAFTA as negotiatons continue. If we flood it with demands to remove ISDS, decision-makers will feel the heat and know there will be a real political cost to keeping ISDS in NAFTA.
One of us sending a message might not make a difference, but if tens of thousands of us write in calling on Canada to stand up for democracy and get ISDS out of NAFTA, our messages become a giant public megaphone — and it cannot be ignored.
Will you send a message now? Our simple tool on the right will send your message directly to the NAFTA consultation inbox.
Investor State Dispute rules are:
- Extreme. They give corporations the most powerful rights in the world: a special global "court" system made just for them where they can go to challenge any government law, policy, regulation — even a Supreme Court ruling — they think will harm their bottomline. They can be awarded unlimited amounts of public money as "compensation" for loss of future profits — which government has to pay if it wants to keep the law or regulation being challenged.8
- Secretive: ISDS claims take place behind closed doors in tribunals. Decisions aren't made by judges, but by “arbitrators” — corporate lawyers with zero public accountability who might rule on an ISDS case one day, and defend a corporation in another case the next. The tribunal is a stacked deck of for-profit arbitrators intersted in keeping ISDS cases rolling in. Its decisions are rarely made public. 9
Anti-democratic. Corporations use ISDS to challenge and roll back government decisions they don't like. It's a toxic system that undermines the very nature of democracy and the rule of law. With the tribunals fully rigged in their favour, corporations are suing governments more and more — to the point where even the threat of an ISDS lawsuit can scare governments into rolling back their decisions. Most of the coroprate lawsuits against Canada have targeted our environmental protections.10
Examples of ISDS cases in NAFTA:Ethyl: This U.S company successfully challenged a Canadian ban on imports of gasoline that contained MMT, a suspected neurotoxin. As part of its settlement, the Canadian government repealed its ban and paid the company $13 million for its loss of profits.
Exxon-Mobil: Canada paid this oil giant $17.3 million after it challenged government guidelines requiring investors in offshore exploration in Newfoundland and Labrador to invest in local research and development.
Lone Pine Resources: This Canadian energy company is suing the Canadian government through its American affiliate for $250 million because Quebec introduced a temporary ban on fracking under the St. Lawrence River until further environmental impact studies are completed.
If you haven't already done so, don't forget to send your message calling on Trudeau's team to remove these toxic corporate rights rules from NAFTA.
Canada says 'hard no' on changing NAFTA dispute resolution
NAFTA's Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals
The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries
The global court that rules the world
NAFTA Chapter 11 Investor-state Disputes
Canadian businesses outline NAFTA priorities in meetings with top negotiators [paywalled]
Foreign investor protections under the TPP