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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire, arrive for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Valletta, Malta, on Nov. 27, 2015.

STEFAN ROUSSEAU/REUTERS

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POLITICS NOTEBOOK

By Campbell Clark (@camrclark)

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A toast to the Queen, some Caribbean political infighting, a mixed bag of nations and a debate on the survival of the planet. Welcome to the peculiar event that is the Commonwealth summit, Justin Trudeau.

The new prime minister arrived in Malta on Thursday, and started the official program Friday morning at an opening ceremony attended by the Queen and Prince Charles, featuring dancers in animal heads performing for representatives of 53 countries.

It's already, after less than a month in office, Mr. Trudeau's third major international summit. But after the G20, which gathers the world's biggest economies, and APEC, with includes major Pacific Rim powers, Mr. Trudeau must feel he's come to a very different confab. And it's not just because one of his duties is toasting the Queen at tonight's dinner for leaders.

The Commonwealth is a mix of nations, big and in most cases small. For Canadian multilateralists like Mr. Trudeau, that's supposed to be its value. It once sanctioned South Africa and Zimbabwe. But the value isn't always clear.

His predecessor, Stephen Harper, skipped the last summit to protest host Sri Lanka's repression and disregard for minority Tamil rights. It cut funding and whispered complaints that current secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma was ineffectual. The choice of his replacement has been the source of fighting among Caribbean island nations, who feel it's their turn to hold the job. Nations like Britain and Canada whisper they want someone more effective, but have to tiptoe around resentment that big first-world countries want to impose their choice. At least 15 leaders didn't come to the summit.

But it is a club Canadians have liked. There are a handful of larger nations from different regions, Britain, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, and dozens of smaller states from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Canada is a relatively big fish in this pond.

Mr. Trudeau has pledged to emphasize multilateralism again in Canadian foreign policy, and said he'll try to spend time with leaders of smaller nations who don't get to APECs and G20s. And this particular Commonwealth has a special issue: it comes just before global talks on climate in Paris next week, and France's President François Hollande will make an unprecedented address to the Commonwealth to urge them to act to save the planet. For the new prime minister, it's a third, but very different summit.

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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

By Evan Annett (@kingdomofevan)

> Wondering how Pierre Trudeau's Commonwealth debut in 1969 compared with his son's? Check our Trudeau comparison feature to find out.

> Knowing how aboriginal women can be targeted by serial killers is a "hugely important" step in addressing the problem, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says in response to a Globe and Mail investigation.

> Surviving family members of Alan Kurdi – the three-year-old Syrian boy whose death galvanized global attention on the Syrian refugee crisis – are being fast-tracked to come to Canada, CBC's the fifth estate reports.

> On the subject of refugees: The Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is selling Canadians on the merits of welcoming refugees with a $535,000 online marketing blitz, which will run until March 31.

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> On the subject of ad spending: Alberta's NDP government is launching a $700,000 campaign to tell Albertans about its climate-change strategy.

SECUREDROP

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WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

"My twin fears will dovetail next week as Justin Trudeau takes a passel of premiers to Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference. There's a lot to worry about. Short-term, I'll be afraid that security measures during the 10-day conference will fail altogether, target the wrong people, or both. Long-term, I'll be anxious that politicking will take precedence over real steps towards a stable climate."

Denise Balkissoon on the Paris attacks, security and climate change.

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Tim Flannery (The Globe and Mail): "Like Australia, Canada is already living in the climate future. … We have reached a defining moment in our history. Canada's new government has a true and present opportunity to show leadership at the Paris climate talks."

Allan Gotlieb (The Globe and Mail): "Now that Justin Trudeau's new cabinet is in place, one of the key appointments he will need to make is Canada's ambassador to Washington. ... The Canadian ambassador's role in Washington is a very broad one – that of chief strategist, chief advocate and chief lobbyist for Canada. It is thus by far the most important and visible in Canada's diplomatic representation."

David Suzuki (Chronicle Herald): "It's encouraging that our newly elected federal government has agreed to improve efforts to safeguard Canada's oceans. ... Let's hope we've entered a new era in maintaining and enhancing the health of our oceans."

This newsletter is produced by Evan Annett, Steve Proceviat and Chris Hannay.

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