Politics

Trudeau makes 1st major speech at UN as Canada bids for Security Council seat

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized Canada is "re-engaging" with the United Nations in his first speech to the General Assembly, as his government positions itself for a run at winning a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

'We're Canadian and we're here to help': Trudeau tells UN General Assembly

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his first address to the United nations General Assembly. 4:58

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized Canada is "re-engaging" with the United Nations in his first speech to the General Assembly, as his government positions itself for a run at winning a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

On his second day at UN headquarters in New York City, the prime minister also met with the president of Bulgaria and prepared to speak at a refugee summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Trudeau's government will need the support of the General Assembly for Canada to win a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 term.

'We're Canadian and we're here to help'

Trudeau spoke about the economic challenges that he said are the "root causes" of anti-globalization sentiments.

"When leaders are faced with citizens' anxiety, we have a choice to make. Do we exploit that anxiety or do we allay it?" he said.

"For Canada, that means re-engaging in global affairs through institutions like the United Nations. It doesn't serve our interests — or the world's — to pretend we're not deeply affected by what happens beyond our borders."

Trudeau's speech attracted a crowd similar in size to that for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May — who spoke before him — though it hardly filled the room. His speech also coincided with the opening of Obama's refugee summit because of delays from speakers who ran long.

Trudeau highlighted Canada's role in the COP21 climate change negotiations, military commitments to NATO and UN peacekeeping missions, as well as the conference for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria held in Montreal this weekend.

"We've done all of this — and will do much more — because we believe we should confront anxiety with a clear plan to deal with its root causes."

Trudeau said Canada welcomed 31,000 Syrian refugees, "not as burdens, but as neighbours and friends." He encouraged people to identify with the plight of Syrian refugees.

The story of the Hadhad family of Antigonish, N.S., began in Syria and has made its way to the United Nations, thanks to a speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 2:17

"Refugees are people with the same hopes and dreams as our own citizens. But while our people have felt anxiety, Syrians faced catastrophe."

The prime minister said Canada has had its own challenges integrating newcomers and faces continued issues with discrimination against Indigenous people, but he spoke of a conscious effort to find strength in differences.

"We're Canadian and we're here to help," he said at the conclusion of his remarks.

Syrian refugee success story

Canada was also one of the co-hosts of Obama's Leaders' Summit on Refugees along with Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, Sweden and the UN Secretary General.

The goal of the summit was to bring together a comprehensive strategy to deal with the 65 million displaced people worldwide. Obama is also encouraging governments and donors to raise more money for the resettlement of refugees.

Trudeau told delegates at that meeting the story of the Hadhads, a family of Syrian refugees who were resettled in Antigonish, N.S., earlier this year.

The family owned a chocolate factory in Damascus but it was destroyed by the war, Trudeau said. Since moving to Canada, the family has opened a home-based shop called Peace by Chocolate.

The business has thrived — so much so that the family managed to send some of their profits to the Canadian Red Cross to help people displaced by the Fort McMurray fire.

"The Hadhads said that they knew what it felt like to flee their countries, to flee their homes, and lose everything and they wanted to help by giving back what they could," Trudeau said of their donation.

"Theirs is just one story, Antigonish is just one community and Canada is just one country. I hope that all leaders here today will think of the Hadhad family ... as they welcome other families. I promise you, we will all be better for it."

The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum says that today's announcement of a joint United Nations initiative is not to help secure Canada a seat on the UN Security Council. 2:15

Trudeau announced an additional $64.5 million over several years in humanitarian aid for displaced people around the world.

"We do this for families like the Hadhad's who have shown tremendous courage and resilience in the face of devastating loss," Trudeau said of refugee funding commitments.

Immigration Minister John McCallum also announced a new partnership between Canada, the UN and billionaire George Soros to help other countries create their own versions of Canada's private sponsorship program for refugees.

Soros, who fled Hungary for the U.K. as a refugee when he was a child, is pledging $500 million to help refugees integrate economically in their host countries.

The prime minister addresses the United Nations General Assembly 12:32

McCallum said 13 countries are interested in the Canadian model. He said Canada's response to the Syrian refugee crisis, while applauded at a conference on refugees Monday, was not part of the bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

"When I took on the refugee task, winning a seat in the United Nations [Security Council] was not one of the reasons that I was given or that I thought about," McCallum said.

"If a byproduct of that is a seat on the Security Council, so much the better."

European trade dealings

Trudeau also met Tuesday morning with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.

Canada's bilateral trade with that country is relatively small, but both are working out a solution to a longstanding visa dispute that was threatening Bulgaria's support for the Canada-European Union free trade deal.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a bilateral meeting with Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria, at the United Nations headquarters. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The agreement is approaching a critical stage in its ratification process at the European Council next month.

Trudeau is also expected to meet informally with Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos while he's at the UN, as the three countries work out a timeline for lifting Canada's visa requirements this fall.

Trudeau will also attend a reception for He for She, a UN organization aimed at encouraging gender equality. 

With files from the CBC's Janyce McGregor and John Paul Tasker

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