North American integration will be the primary focus of a high-level trinational meeting taking place in Ottawa today. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff will meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, Trade Minister David Emerson and their Mexican counterparts.

“While recent media reports have claimed that the meeting will focus on border security,” says Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, “we know that the goal of this meeting is to advance a much larger corporate-led agenda for North American integration — something our government has been very secretive about.”

“The big business community has been an integral part of these negotiations, while the public and most of our elected officials have been left out,” says John Urquhart, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians.

The North American Competitiveness Council, an official tri-national working group of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America composed of 30 CEOs from some of North America’s largest companies, has been a driving force behind the deep integration process. The NACC is scheduled to present over 50 recommendations today aimed at “making Canada more competitive.”

“If making Canada competitive is the prime focus, why havenâe(TM)t other stakeholders like labour groups, environmental organizations and social justice groups been invited to the table?” says Jean-Yves LeFort, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Whose security and prosperity are they promoting?”

A September 2006 report issued by the governments of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico stated that the meeting would take place in order to “review progress” on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and “develop concrete initiatives” in preparation for the leaders’ summit expected to take place in Kananaskis in June 2007.

“The Security and Prosperity Partnership goes beyond simply the passport issue,” says Lefort. “The agreement calls for 300 policy changes in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico and gives wide-ranging powers to the business élite without any consideration for the public interest or the environment.”

The Council of Canadians is demanding that Canada cease all further participation in the Security and Prosperity Partnership and that Stephen Harper consult with Canadians in a meaningful way on Canada-U.S. relations.

Meera Karunananthan

Meera Karunananthan

Meera Karunananthan is the national water campaigner at the Council of Canadians.