Hundreds of activists rallied on Parliament Hill to protest the secretive nature of the upcoming summit in Montebello, Que. involving North America’s three political leaders.
However, their agenda extended beyond those talks to issues as diverse as climate change and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some activists launched a bicycle ride to the summit site about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa.
“We hope to draw attention to the fact that neither Canada nor the United States are doing one-tenth of what’s needed to fight climate change,” said protester Trevor Hache on Sunday.
However, the protesters were almost outnumbered by police in Ottawa. So far things have been quiet, but some businesses in Ottawa have boarded up as a precaution. Only three minor arrests were made.
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon will meet Monday for the two-day summit to discuss the Security and Prosperity Partnership that would deeply integrate trade and security across the continent.
Activists warned Canada’s high standards for worker and food safety could be relaxed in the interest of securing a deal with the U.S. and Mexico where standards are often lower.
“We want Canadians, Americans and Mexicans to know that this is a big-business driven process, for them and by them, to deregulate all sorts of regulations across the board – environment, health, safety worker standards,” said Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, the main group behind the rally.
The federal government said that’s not true.
A statement posted on the Government of Canada website states the Security and Prosperity Partnership will “protect the environment, combat infectious diseases and ensure a safe food and energy supply.”
Barlow said the government should open the agenda to the public if the agreement is so beneficial.
About 30 business executives are invited to meet with the leaders at the summit on Tuesday to help push the partnership. Social activists or environmentalists will not play a role in discussions.
“There has never been any real public consultations and we’re talking about an agenda that touches about 300 different areas,” said Peter Julian, an NDP MP from B.C. and his party’s trade critic.
“What we are saying is this needs to come out in the public domain, we need to have full and meaningful consultations, we need a parliamentary vote before anything else is negotiated away.”
Also on the agenda
The talks between leaders will mostly focus on broader economic themes and strategies to compete with emerging economic powerhouses like India and China.
In light of massive recalls of products manufactured in China, the leaders are also expected to discuss consumer product safety.
Opposition Liberal leader Stephane Dion said this past week that the Conservatives could also be involved in “secret negotiations” to sell Canada’s fresh water.
The Conservatives have vehemently denied this claim. “Our government has repeatedly made clear the fact bulk water exports are not on the agenda,” Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told Newsnet she has seen documents that show Canada’s fresh water supply might be at risk with these talks.
“I’ve seen some of the talking points and discussion papers for think tanks in advance of this summit,” she said. “They are portraying the water issue as one where Canada has an abundance of water and the U.S. has water scarcity.
“With the climate crisis coming, we are facing severe drought and severe water scarcity issues. I find it very disturbing that they are signing off our water in a closed summit.”
With a report from CTV’s Graham Richardson and files from The Canadian Press