Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has kicked off a whirlwind trip to Brussels and will address the European Parliament later today on his second visit to the continent this month.
The prime minister’s plane touched down at a Brussels military base this morning.
Trudeau’s speech is set to stress the importance of countries on both sides of the Atlantic working together to defend democracy in the face of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
It will be Trudeau’s second speech to European parliamentarians, following a 2017 address that was meant as a shot in the arm for a continent reeling from Britain’s vote a year earlier to leave the European Union amid the election of Donald Trump in the United States.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Europe can expect to hear a similar message in a new context: Canada’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine as Europe confronts its biggest security threat since the Second World War.
Two weeks ago, Trudeau developed a similar theme in a speech to an international audience at the Munich Security Conference, where he called for a recommitment to democracy in the face of rising authoritarianism.
The speech was a sequel of sorts to the 2017 address the prime minister gave in Hamburg, Germany, that outlined his foreign-policy vision and his often professed faith in the rules-based international order.
Trudeau will join other NATO leaders on Thursday to coordinate the military alliance’s response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and will meet with fellow G7 leaders before returning to Canada on Friday.
Trudeau toured Europe two weeks ago, where he held meetings in London, Berlin, Warsaw and Poland, and visited Canadian troops leading a NATO multinational battlegroup in Latvia.
Trudeau will face pressure to boost Canada’s defence budget, which according to NATO estimates stands at 1.39 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2021.
“Ukraine is helping to make spending on defence more palatable for Canadians,” said Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba.
“I think we need ground-based, anti-aircraft defence capabilities desperately and a replacement for the CF18s.”
Prior to leaving Ottawa on Tuesday, Trudeau spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about “further international assistance ahead of the upcoming NATO and G7 meetings,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
“Both leaders called on Russia to stop targeting civilians, to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine, and to engage in diplomacy with Ukraine.”
In a tweet, Zelenskyy said he specifically spoke about the “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in the besieged city of Mariupol, and “the importance of effective security guarantees” for Ukraine.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2022.