The head of the United Nations spent today in Montreal, where he met with Mayor Denis Coderre, addressed students and others at McGill University – and put in a plug for the Montreal Canadiens.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon signed the city's golden book after holding a news conference alongside the mayor.

In his signed message, Ban called Montreal "a leader on the world stage" and an "enduring friend of the United Nations."

At the news conference, Ban also took a moment to praise Canada's response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Ban said Canada's decision to welcome 25,000 refugees may be a small number but it's a huge example of international solidarity.

Leadership role

He said Canada has shown compassionate leadership and generosity and that more developed countries should be helping to shoulder the responsibility of caring for Syria's displaced people.

Ban added he met about 40 Syrian refugees on Thursday during a visit to Canada's Parliament in Ottawa.


Lawyer and McGill graduate student Natacha Engel attends Ban Ki-moon's speech at the university on Friday. (Richard Thibeault/CBC)

He says the refugees were very happy knowing their lives had been protected and their human dignity respected.

Ban gave a speech at McGill University entitled, "Threats and Opportunities: The Power of Young People to Shape a New Future."

The speech was delayed after a fire alarm, which turned out to be false, went off at the university. 

Ban ended his address with a note of encouragement for the Montreal Canadiens, to the great delight of his audience.

Ban Ki-moon roots for the Habs0:27

Ban is meeting Premier Philippe Couillard this evening at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Ban is also expected to meet with members of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

On Saturday, he will visit Montreal's anti-radicalization centre with Mayor Denis Coderre.

The secretary general met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while in Ottawa.

Following that meeting, Trudeau declared his intention to seek a seat on the UN's Security Council when the next vacancies arise.

"We're looking at a number of windows in the coming years," Trudeau said. "We are going to evaluate the opportunities for Canada to mount a successful bid."

Ban, for his part, welcomed Trudeau's commitment to multilateralism on major global issues, especially peacekeeping missions.

Hervé Ladsous, the head of the UN peacekeeping operations, reportedly joined Ban on the trip to Ottawa and took part in a series of meetings with Defence department officials.

with files from The Canadian Press