Northern Territories more vulnerable to trade treaties--report

October 26, 2004

OTTAWA - Canada's three northern territories are even more vulnerable than the provinces to the impacts of international trade treaties signed by the federal government, warns a new book released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The book is entitled Globalization and the North: Impacts of Trade Treaties on Canada's Northern Governments .

The policy areas most at risk for Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon are public and aboriginal governance, health care, economic development and the environment, according to British Columbia-based researchers Noel Schacter and Jim Beebe.

A primary reason for the territories' additional vulnerability is that many of their structures and powers were not in place when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) came into force in1995. For example, Nunavut only came into being in 1999, and many aboriginal treaties have not been completed. As a result, exceptions to market access rules in NAFTA and WTO agreements were not negotiated for newly acquired authorities covering a very broad range of policy-making. Further, aboriginal self-government rights enshrined in the Constitution are not reflected in international trade treaties signed by Canada.

"Existing trade and investment treaties pose an increasing threat to northern governments' ability to choose policies that are in the best interest of their citizens," Schacter said. "The federal government is continually negotiating the expansion of trade and investment treaty obligations. There is a growing need for Northerners and their governments to monitor these negotiations to ensure it does not restrict their development potential in the future."

The environment is particularly important to northerners, and the report recommends the territories urge Ottawa to sign on to international environmental agreements, as it has done with the Kyoto Protocol, since these treaties are less susceptible to corporate challenges than domestic laws.

The report was originally commissioned by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union for federal and territorial employees. Schacter is the former chief spokesperson and negotiator for the B.C. government on trade and investment treaties. Beebe is the former editor of the Whitehorse Star and former director of the Yukon government's cabinet policy branch.


Copies of Globalization and the North: Impacts of Trade Treaties on Canada's Northern Governments can be obtained from the CCPA (

For more information or to arrange an interview contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer, 613-563-1341 x306.