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Trudeau under pressure to detail Canada's new role in fight against IS

Now that the plan for resettling refugees has been set out in detail, Mr. Trudeau will be under pressure to detail another major endeavour, the new Canadian mission against the Islamic State.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada's plan for resettling refugees can be a calling card for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he travels to Europe. Climate change will be the talk at summits. But when he attends his first head-to-head visits with foreign leaders in two foreign capitals, fighting the Islamic State, and Canada's contribution, will be a simmering issue.

In London, Mr. Trudeau will meet the Queen on Wednesday, then call on British Prime Minister David Cameron, who earlier in the week was in Paris to pledge support to the fight. The day after meeting Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Cameron will head to Parliament to make the case for expanding British air strikes to Syria.

On Sunday, Mr. Trudeau heads to Paris, where world leaders will gather to give a push to global climate-change talks. But when he first meets the host, French President François Hollande, in a separate bilateral meeting, he will surely find a leader who has another driving goal, too. Mr. Hollande is on a diplomatic mission this week to push nations to step up the fight on the Islamic State, visiting Washington and Moscow and receiving Mr. Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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And then there's Mr. Trudeau, who plans to withdraw Canadian CF-18s from air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

French and British diplomats have insisted their leaders don't hold that against the new government. Mr. Trudeau was elected on the pledge, and that's politics. Instead, they embraced Mr. Trudeau's statements that he's committed to combatting the Islamic State, and will do so through other means, such as military training. The strikes conducted by Canada's half-dozen fighter jets aren't, in a practical military sense, crucial. And there's not much point criticizing a brand-new government that doesn't have much political leeway to backtrack, anyway.

After his government's refugee-resettlement plan detailed Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau travels with this calling card, offering a measure of help in responding to a refugee issue that has engendered political controversy in Europe. Much of the public talk, at the Commonwealth leaders' summit in Malta later this week and global climate talks early next week, will be about climate change – and Mr. Trudeau's British and French hosts have given a warm welcome to Canada's new, greener position. That's likely to take up more of the public speech-making than Mr. Trudeau's different, seemingly clashing position on fighting ISIS.

But Mr. Hollande and Mr. Cameron might just have a more insistent tone behind closed doors than their diplomats do in public. What will Canada do? What does Mr. Trudeau's plan to step up training entail? And how else will Canada offer support, both in military action and other areas?

It's not only a question of how much he is pressed behind closed doors, or how that can colour new relationships with Canada's oldest and closest allies. It's the optics of other leaders rallying more action from nations around the world while Mr. Trudeau is pulling back – crossing paths with his friends and going the other way. He's heading to Europe's big capitals at a time when the difference will be palpable.

Now that the plan for resettling refugees has been set out in detail, Mr. Trudeau will be under pressure to detail another major endeavour, the new Canadian mission against the Islamic State.

The symbolism is important. Allies such as France will want to see Mr. Trudeau unveiling a military mission that seems like Canada is beefing up its commitment, even as it pulls out the CF-18s.

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France's ambassador to Canada, Nicolas Chapuis, has said there are other ways for Canada to contribute to the fight. Britain's High Commissioner to Canada, Howard Drake, said his country's government will wait to hear the details. "Let's see what Canada does," he said. Their bosses might have a few more questions.

The high-speed agenda Mr. Trudeau has faced in his early days, with international summits, refugee-resettlement plans and climate talks with premiers, includes one more pressing item: He'll be under pressure to explain how he will pull Canada out of air strikes, and still step up in the fight against the Islamic State.

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