Justin Trudeau will not deliver Canada’s address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month, according to the Prime Minister's Office.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will deliver the main speech for Canada during the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN, according to the Prime Minister's spokesperson, Chantal Gagnon. This year marks the first time Mr. Trudeau will not address the UN General Assembly since he became Prime Minister.
When asked why Ms. Freeland would be speaking at the UN General Assembly instead of the Prime Minister, Ms. Gagnon said “it’s not every year that a prime minister is giving the address.” She did not offer any further explanation for the decision, but underlined that Mr. Trudeau will attend other UN-related events in New York.
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The UN General Assembly debate starts on Sept. 25, with U.S. President Donald Trump slated to speak that day. Because heads of state and government speak before ministers, Ms. Freeland won’t speak until Sept. 29 – days after many world leaders will have left New York.
Former Canadian envoy to the UN Paul Heinbecker said it's not unusual for a foreign minister to speak in place of a Canadian prime minister at the UN General Assembly. For instance, he pointed to Mr. Trudeau's father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who addressed the UN General Assembly only twice – in 1978 and 1982 – during his 15 years as prime minister. He sent his foreign minister or secretary of state for external affairs to address the general debate the other years.
Mr. Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, addressed the UN general debate three times while serving as prime minister from 2006 to 2015. During the 2015 federal election, the Trudeau Liberals accused Mr. Harper’s Conservatives of turning their backs on the UN, and campaigned on a promise to close a chapter of chilly relations between the government and the multilateral institution.
During his first speech to the UN General Assembly as Prime Minister in 2016, Mr Trudeau declared his government’s renewed commitment to the UN.
“We're Canadian. And we're here to help," he said during his inaugural address.
Last year, Mr. Trudeau used his speech to the UN General Assembly to shine a light on a dark aspect of Canadian history: the story of this country's Indigenous peoples and their challenging relationship with the government.
Although Mr. Trudeau won’t address the UN General Assembly this year, Ms. Gagnon said Canada’s commitment to the UN is unwavering – something that will be demonstrated when the Prime Minister attends other UN-related events in New York from Sept. 24 to 26.
“We’re always promoting multilateralism, especially at the UN, and we think it’s really important. That’s why the PM is going for the third time.”
Last week, The Globe and Mail reported that Mr. Trudeau will deliver the keynote address during a meeting about international development financing on Sept. 24, hosted by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Ms. Gagnon said the Prime Minister will also speak at the Mandela Peace Summit, a high-level meeting on global peace held in honour of the centenary of the birth of former South African president Nelson Mandela, in New York.