Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

The Tabling of International Treaties in the Parliament of Canada: The First Four Years

Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

The Tabling of International Treaties in the Parliament of Canada: The First Four Years

Article excerpt

In January 2008, the government of Canada announced the adoption of the policy that international treaties would be tabled in the House of Commons following their signature or adoption and prior to Canada formally notifying its intention to be bound by the treaty This article provides an overview of the Tabling Policy, the domestic legal structure of treaty-making in Canada, a description of the international instruments that have been tabled under the Policy from 2008 to 2011, and a review of the one treaty that has been discussed at length in the House of Commons.

En janvier 2008, le gouvernement du Canada a annoncé qu'il adoptait une politique voulant que les traités internationaux soient déposés devant la Chambre des communes après leur signature ou autrement, mais avant que le Canada n'exprime son consentement à être lié. L'article donne d'abord une vue d'ensemble de la politique sur le dépôt des traités, de la structure juridique canadienne de l'établissement de traités au Canada ainsi qu'une description des instruments internationaux qui ont été déposés sous le régime de la politique de 2008 à 2011; il passe ensuite en revue Tun des traités qui a fait l'objet de longues discussions à la Chambre des communes.

Introduction

I. International treaties

II. Canada s domestic legal framework for treaty-making

III. A few notes on the internal guidelines for the treaty-making process

IV. The 2008 Tabling Policy

1. Coverage

2. Procedure

3. Exceptions

4. Content

V. What has been tabled 2008-2011

VI. Specific treaties

1. The Amendment to the NAFO Convention

2. The Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement

3. The Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement Conclusion

Introduction

In January 2008, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier announced the adoption of the policy that international treaties would be tabled in the House of Commons.1 The intent of the policy was:

to ensure that all instruments governed by public international law, between Canada and other states or international organizations, are tabled in the House of Commons following their signature or adoption by other procedure and prior to Canada formally notifying that it is bound by the Instrument.2

The document that followed, the "Policy on Tabling of Treaties in Parliament" includes: Annex A, departmental guidelines for the treatymaking process; Annex B, the procedures to be followed for the tabling of treaties in the House of Commons; and Annex C, a note on non-binding international instruments.3 At the heart of the policy is defining a role for the House of Commons in Canada's international treaty-making process.

This contribution starts with a short section on international treaties and terminology, followed by a brief background on the domestic legal structure of Canada's treaty-making, an overview of the 2008 Tabling Policy, a description of the international instruments that have been tabled under the Policy from 2008 to 2011, a review of the one treaty that has been discussed at length in the House of Commons as well as notes on two others and a few words of conclusion.

I. International treaties

A key, though somewhat self-evident fact is that an international treaty can exist only between entities that are subjects of international law. Subjects of international law include States and, in certain cases and for certain purposes, international organizations.4 That Canada is recognized as a State with the capacity to negotiate with other States and enter into international treaties with States and international organizations is not in doubt.

The sacred text on international treaties between States is the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties5 which, amongst other things, defines (as will be explained below) what is a treaty between States and, as a result, what is not an international legally binding instrument. Canada is a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the 2008 Tabling Policy states that the Convention "can be described as a codification of public international law on treaties. …

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