Trudeau arrives in Paris following pipeline meeting with Notley, Horgan
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived in France as he continues more than a week of globetrotting following a brief stop in Ottawa Sunday to discuss the Trans Mountain pipeline crisis with the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia.
Trudeau’s plane touched down in Paris early Monday local time. He was supposed to fly to the French capital directly from Peru — where he attended the Summit of the Americas on Friday and Saturday — before he decided to sit down with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan on Parliament Hill.
With that highly charged meeting now out of the way, Trudeau will turn his attention to what will be his first official visit to France, where he’ll meet with President Emmanuel Macron and address the National Assembly.
The visit comes only days after France joined Britain and the U.S. in launching airstrikes against the Syrian government for an alleged chemical-weapon attack this month that killed at least 40 people and left hundreds more injured.
Trudeau has voiced support for the joint airstrikes. He will have a chance to discuss Syria and Russia, which has emerged as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s strongest backer, when he meets with Macron on Monday.
Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, before the airstrikes against Syria, and is scheduled to visit Russia in May.
The two leaders are also expected to talk about Mali, where France has been leading a counter-terrorism mission for several years and where Canada is preparing to send six military helicopters to help with the local UN peacekeeping mission.
That discussion will occur against the backdrop of another deadly attack on the UN mission at Timbuktu, this time by militants disguised as peacekeepers.
One blue helmet was reported killed, bringing the tally for the peacekeeping mission to 166 since 2013, with more than half of those deaths attributed to what the UN calls “malicious acts.”
Ten French soldiers involved in counter-terror operations were also hurt.
Canada is expected to base its helicopters at the UN base in Gao, rather than Timbuktu.
On Tuesday, Trudeau will become the first Canadian prime minister to address the French National Assembly and the most recent leader to be given that rare opportunity since King Felipe of Spain in June 2015.
His speech is expected to touch on the rise of nationalism, populism and xenophobia, which have become serious concerns in France and other parts of Europe in recent years.
Much of the prime minister’s two-day visit will also focus on trade as Canada looks to ease its reliance on the U.S. market.
Trudeau’s message will include highlighting the potential benefits of the new Canada-European Union free trade deal, which came into force in September.
The prime minister will also meet Michaelle Jean, the former governor general of Canada who is now head of the Francophonie, as well as the head of French aerospace giant Airbus, which has partnered with Canadian counterpart Bombardier on the latter’s C Series passenger planes.
He then heads to London to attend a meeting of Commonwealth leaders.
— Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press