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Trudeau trades human rights for NAFTA with Trump

The Trudeau government’s strategy to develop a good relationship with US President Donald J. Trump – given his campaign promise to renegotiate or rip-up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – appears to be working, but at what cost to fundamental human rights?

1- Women’s rights

The Canadian Press reports, “[Trudeau] received a shout-out from Trump in his first speech to a joint session of the US Congress [last night], with a salute to a joint project they recently launched together. The president mentioned Trudeau while highlighting the women’s business group created during the prime minister’s recent visit to Washington, which involves the president’s daughter Ivanka.”


Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren has written, “These are the things we do for trade deals [but] was it really necessary for our feminist Prime Minister to make such an utter mockery of women’s rights (which are under real threat in the United States at the moment) while he was on a social visit to casually secure broader points of the North American free-trade agreement?” And Press Progress has also noted the NAFTA strategy behind the women’s business group and how it helped Trump given he “has been accused of sexually assaulting over a dozen women.”

2- Migrant rights

The National Post reports, “[Trump] also saluted Canada’s immigration system during his attention-grabbing remarks on immigration reform. ‘Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others, have a merit-based immigration system’, Trump said.” The Globe and Mail explains, “Under Canada’s points system, immigrants are evaluated by their skills, work experience, education and language skills, a system designed to bring the best and brightest into the country.” And yet No One Is Illegal has commented, “We must reject the categories of deserving and undeserving migrants and refuse the discrimination against poor, women, disabled, Muslim and Black migrants in particular.”


In addition, despite the United States clearly not being a “safe country” for immigrants under Trump, Trudeau refuses to rescind the Canada-US Safe Third Country agreement. And the Trudeau government is now moving forward with C-23, a pre-clearance border security bill that would give US border guards new powers to question, search and arrest Canadians at airports, bus stations and train terminals in Canada. C-23 would also allow US border guards in Canada to be armed and to conduct strip searches on Canadians. It would also mean that permanent residents of Canada seeking to re-enter Canada via the United States could be turned away at US airports.

3- The right to a healthy environment

Trump also highlighted in his speech last night the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline. When Trudeau and Trump met in Washington last month, their Joint Statement highlighted, “As the process continues for the Keystone XL pipeline, we remain committed to moving forward on energy-infrastructure projects that will create jobs while respecting the environment.” And yet there appears to be no real recognition that the 830,000 barrel per day tar sands pipeline – that is the equivalent to adding 5.6 million cars to roadways – is fundamentally inconsistent with the imperative to limit global warming.

Keystone XL is also a violation of Indigenous rights in that it is opposed by First Nations in both Canada and the United States.

4- The right to public services

The Canadian Press reports, “People involved in Canada-U.S. relations might have picked up on other elements of [Trump’s] speech [to Congress]. Trump applauded the idea of joint public-private funding for a massive infrastructure spending project — which is a priority for the Trudeau government.” Our ally the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has commented, “The plan for a Canadian Infrastructure Bank is a recipe for the cannibalization and privatization of Canada’s public infrastructure for profit by private institutional investors.”

5- The right to regulate

And the Canadian Press notes, “Trump also referred to his plan for regulation-slashing, which Canada might play a role in. The countries meet frequently through a regulatory co-operation body, and Treasury Board President Scott Brison offered to share some ideas during a trip last week to Washington.” Last night, Trump highlighted, “We are going to stop the regulations that threaten the future and livelihood of our great coal miners.” In practice that has meant repealing the Stream Protection Rule that had prohibited surface mining within 30 metres of streams and the dumping of mining waste into streams during mountaintop mining.

To demand better of Trudeau – including demanding public consultations on the renegotiation of NAFTA, expected to begin on June 1 – please send him a letter through our action alert here.