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Hupacasath First Nation prepares to appeal FIPPA decision

It's taken just two days for B.C.'s Hupacasath First Nation to raise $50,000 in a fundraising campaign aimed at defeating an international trade deal between Canada and China.

The Hupacasath claim that Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrongly failed to consult it, and other First Nations, before signing the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA). The agreement was signed on Sept. 9, 2012, by Harper and then-Chinese president Hu Jintao but has yet to be ratified.

The agreement, which was not debated in the House of Commons, has been criticized for it's lack of reciprocity. International investment law expert Gus Van Harten told the CBC that under FIPPA, Canadian taxpayers would assume "more of the risks and more of the constraints" than their Chinese counterparts, and that China could sue for decisions made by any level of government in Canada if it thought Canadian companies were being given an advantage.

The fact that arbitration on these claims would happen in secret calls into question the whether the treaty is constitutional or not, Van Harten said.

In June, thanks to more than $150,000 from an initial fundraising campaign launched by the online advocacy group Leadnow, the Hupacasath were able to take the federal government to court, arguing that if the government were to ratify FIPPA it would be in breach of its constitutional duty to consult First Nations.

Hupacasath representative Brenda Sayers told the Globe and Mail's Mark Hume at the time that the deal would open the door to legal action from Chinese investors if, for example, the band stopped a Chinese company from cutting timber on its traditional territory.

The court ruled against that challenge, which brought them to the current appeal process.

Leadnow has launched another online fundraising campaign to help pay for the appeal. The organization's campaigns director Matthew Carroll said most of the donors are people already within the Leadnow community. The average donation is about $30, he said, but some as high as $1,000 have come in.

Carroll added that Sayers has done a "monumental amount of work" on the issue. Sayers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Colleen Kimmett is an editor at The Tyee.

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