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

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

Penticton Vees continue their winning streak carrying a 5-0 win title as of Sunday night's hockey action. (Cherie Morgan/Cherie Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees continue winning streak

Sunday night’s 6-1 win has them with five in a row since the start of the season

Mainly clear and sunny skies are expected for the Okanagan-Shuswap region this week. (Maxpixels photo)
Warm, sunny week ahead in Okanagan-Shuswap

Daytime highs will reach the low 20s with mainly clear skies this week

The City of Penticton will offer large item garbage collection later this month. (Black Press file photo)
Penticton to offer large item garbage collection

Items will be collected April 19 to 23

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

Chrystina Barnard, owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply, has made it her mission to visit as many patios in Penticton as a way to promote restaurants. Here she is enjoying an eggs benny with her best fur friend at Loki’s Garage in Penticton. (Facebook)
Penticton foodie commits to 19-day patio crawl to promote local restaurants

The small business owner wanted to help out eateries hurt by the new restrictions

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

A car sheared a Hydro pole and the driver was pinned by a fence pole on 43rd Avenue Saturday, April 10. (Carmen Jaster photo)
Suspected impaired driver ‘lucky to be alive’ after crash in Vernon yard

Impaired driving investigation underway after driver shears Hydro pole and narrowly misses being impaled

A crane stands in the middle of a fire-ravaged Glenmore Road construction site on Thursday, April 8. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Evacuation order remains in effect around burned Kelowna construction site

Assessment of potentially risky crane to take place this afternoon

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Interior Health improves access to mental health supports amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Stock)
Interior Health connects people to mental health resources amid COVID

310-MHSU line receives positive feedback in early months of rollout

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
North Okanagan landlord’s home trashed by tenants

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Kelowna-based company GTEC Cannabis Co. has paid off $6 million in debts. (GTEC Cannabis Co. - Facebook)
Kelowna cannabis company pays off $6M debt

GTEC Cannabis Co. is now one of the few debt-free companies in the sector

Most Read