Canada's secret constitution

NAFTA, the WTO, and the end of sovereignty?
October 9, 2002

Canada's sovereignty has been undermined by the international agreements the federal government has entered into with the World Trade Organization (WTO), and with the United States and Mexico in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)--so much so that these agreements in effect now constitute "Canada's Secret Constitution."

This is the main thrust of Stephen Clarkson's monograph Canada's Secret Constitution: NAFTA, WTO and the End of Sovereignty? published today by the CCPA which is an adapted version of the core chapter of his newly released book Uncle Sam and Us.

Together, the WTO and NAFTA "create a new mode of economic regulation with such broad scope and such unusual judicial authority," says Clarkson, "that it entrenches certain inviolate principles or norms that are above the reach of any politician to alter."

Clarkson, a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto, says that these mandatory principles, such as guaranteeing "national treatment" to foreign corporations, override Canada's constitution by controlling and limiting government actions. Their effect is therefore supraconstitutional.

The author wonders how much longer Canadians will continue to accept their country's new external constitution. "How long citizens will tolerate politicians' claiming impotence in the face of the WTO's or NAFTA's constitutionalized principles and rights remains to be seen."

Clarkson's book--and the CCPA monograph excerpted from it--will help Canadians better understand the threats posed by this external constitution. He hopes that the better they understand it, the less it will be liked, and so it will start to lose its legitimacy and come under pressure for amendment.

Canada's Secret Constitution: NAFTA, the WTO, and the End of Sovereignty is now accessible on the CCPA's website.