A man holds a flag on a hockey stick during the Pride parade in Toronto, Sunday, June 25, 2017. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press)

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

Canada’s fraught new trade pact with the United States and Mexico is facing a new challenge: a group of conservative U.S. lawmakers who say its language on sexual orientation and gender identity is inappropriate and an affront to national sovereignty.

In a letter to the White House flagged Friday by the U.S. website Politico, a coalition of 40 members of Congress is urging President Donald Trump not to sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement unless the language is excised.

“As a sovereign nation, the United States has the right to decide when, whether and how to tackle issues of civil rights, protected classes and workplace rights,” reads the letter, released Friday.

“A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy. It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept.”

Signatories to the letter include Iowa Republican Steve King, who made headlines in Canada last month when he tweeted his support for the controversial Toronto mayoral campaign of alt-right anti-immigration champion Faith Goldy.

The language in the agreement is relatively mild, pledging all three countries to support ”policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity,” as well as caregiving responsibilities and child-rearing.

READ MORE: USMCA writes new continental rules around online content, experts say

READ MORE: Prime Minister pledges to ensure ‘thriving’ dairy industry post USMCA

Another offending clause calls for “co-operative activities” in the promotion of equality and ending job discrimination “in the areas of age, disability, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other characteristics not related to merit or the requirements of employment.”

But the critics fear that in its current form, the agreement would make it impossible for Trump to roll back changes to non-discrimination policies that added sexual orientation and gender-identity language to existing federal laws when Barack Obama was president.

A New York Times report last month cited an internal Department of Health and Human Services memo that proposes defining gender as an immutable biological condition determined by a person’s sex organs at birth, triggering fear among gender-rights advocates that the Trump administration was planning to erode LGBTQ rights by making transgender Americans legally nonexistent.

Friday’s letter cited that policy direction — as well as an October 2017 Justice Department memo that essentially declared that U.S. civil-rights law doesn’t ban sex-based workplace discrimination — as it warned that signing and ratifying USMCA would contradict the government’s goals.

“At the same time your administration is carrying out a cohesive agenda regarding policies surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, in the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services specifically, it is deeply troubling that the office of the U.S. Trade Representative has included contradictory language in the (USMCA),” the letters tells Trump.

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of negotiations that laid bare tension in the Canada-U.S. relationship, is scheduled for what Canadian officials say will be a low-key, low-level signing when the three countries gather Nov. 30 for annual G20 meetings, taking place this year in Buenos Aires.

The tensions have not eased, thanks largely to the fact that Canada and Mexico both remain subject to Trump’s punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum exports. Officials in the Canadian Embassy in Washington have been trying to get those tariffs lifted.

And a Reuters report Thursday said Canada has been pushing back against what it described as U.S. attempts to amend the text of the deal, something officials in Ottawa characterize as a routine vetting exercise.

One Canadian source familiar with the ongoing effort said Friday that officials in Ottawa don’t expect any substantive changes to the text before the signing.

Trade watchers are also waiting nervously as the newly Democratic House of Representatives prepares to wield its power in opposition to the Trump legislative agenda. A number of prominent Democrats have signalled they won’t vote to ratify the USMCA without more robust enforcement measures for the agreement’s labour and environmental provisions.

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

Sharon Hickin, general manager of the Days Inn Sylvan Lake and the new Lake House Diner, poses for a photo outside the new restaurant. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Pandemic puts extra hurdles in place for new Sylvan Lake businesses

Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic

Sylvan Lake Wranglers. File Photo
Sylvan Lake Wranglers ready for shorten hockey season

The HJHL will have a 20 game season, playing four games in a cohort and then going dark for 14 days

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta’s official Opposition, speaks in Edmonton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Notley says the government needs to sharply ramp up the number of contact tracers if it wants to get a handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Opposition calls for more COVID-19 contact tracers as case numbers rise

Alberta has about 800 tracers, and chief medical health officer Dr. Hinshaw says more are being recruited

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. Hospital and health-care workers who staged a one-day illegal walkout returned to work Tuesday while politicians swapped recriminations and accusations in the house over the dispute. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta health staff return to work, surgeries resume after one-day walkout

AHS estimated 157 non-emergency surgeries, most of them in Edmonton, had to be postponed as a result of the walkout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Most Read