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

Kids trick or treating in Kimberley’s Platzl last year. It’s going to be a bit different this year, but with proper precautions, it can still be fun for the kids. Kimberley Bulletin file.
Platzl businesses invite kids to socially-distanced trick or treating

Taking a few precautions will create a fun Halloween for Kimberley kids

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
OPINION: Examining preliminary results from the 2020 BC Election

Some thoughts to ponder as British Columbia awaits the final results from mail-in ballots

Your Columbia River Revelstoke candidates; Nicole Cherlet (NDP); Samson Boyer (Green) and Doug Clovechok (BC Liberal). The polls are closed and ballots being counted. (File photo)
BC VOTES: Clovechok preliminary winner with 52 per cent of the vote

35 of 77 polls have reported and The Canadian Press is calling Clovechok winner

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read