Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will use his first international trip as an opportunity to show other nations there is an economic – as well as humanitarian – case for welcoming large numbers of Syrian refugees.
Less than two weeks after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau will participate in a summit of G20 leaders hosted by Turkey, Syria's northern neighbour that is currently home to more than two million refugees.
Speaking at a news conference in Ottawa ahead of his departure, Mr. Trudeau said he expects Canada's plan to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees this year will have a greater impact in terms of setting an example to others.
"I think one of the things that is most important right now is for a country like Canada to demonstrate how to make accepting large numbers of refugees not just a challenge or a problem, but an opportunity; an opportunity for communities across this country, an opportunity to create growth for the economy," he said.
Mr. Trudeau is departing on a whirlwind of foreign travel that will test his political skills as he attempts to strike positive first impressions with the world's most influential leaders. The Liberals are promoting the trips as a message that Canada will now play a more constructive role in international affairs.
The Prime Minister said his focus at the G20 will be to encourage global growth through government investment rather than austerity. The G20 pledged last year in Brisbane, Australia, to boost economic growth by 2 per cent partly by increased spending on infrastructure, a plan that is in line with Mr. Trudeau's successful election platform.
The global economy has since moved in the opposite direction. The International Monetary Fund has lowered its global growth forecasts for this year and next.
After the G20, Mr. Trudeau will travel to the Philippines for an Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit where he is scheduled to have his first official meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
A brief return home to meet with Canada's premiers in Ottawa will be followed by a Nov. 25 meeting with the Queen in London. Mr. Trudeau's quick start to international diplomacy then shifts to a late November Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Valletta, Malta, followed by a stop in Paris for a major international summit on climate change.
The APEC summit is expected to include discussions related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The release of the text earlier this month has generated criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Washington, while Canadian labour groups – particularly in the auto sector – strongly oppose the deal, as do some business leaders in Canada.
Meanwhile, a Canadian trade deal with the European Union has yet to be formally ratified, meaning the topic is likely to come up during Mr. Trudeau's interactions with European leaders at the G20.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is expected to meet with Mr. Trudeau at the summit, has placed the refugee issue and the larger question of the ongoing military conflict in Syria on the agenda of the G20, an annual forum that has historically focused on economic matters.
Turkey is the main source of refugees flooding into Europe and the European Union is currently seeking a deal with Turkey to tighten border controls in exchange for financial incentives.
Turkey's ambassador to Canada, Selcuk Unal, told The Globe in an e-mail that Turkey is looking for more "burden sharing" from the international community when it comes to refugees.
Aid groups welcome Canada's pledge to bring in 25,000 government-assisted refugees from Syria before the end of the year, but there are also calls for Canada to do more for the millions of refugees who will not have the opportunity to leave their current situation any time soon.
"Bringing these refugees to Canada, that's a really important issue and we applaud the government for having those numbers, but the big crisis is still in the region and there's millions of people displaced," said Oxfam Canada executive director Julie Delahanty, who added that Canada could be doing more to help refugees who are in the region.
"I feel the focus has become completely around bringing refugees to Canada – which, not to undermine the importance of that issue – but there's still a lot of people going hungry and very cold, living in muddy conditions and dealing with an awful lot of pretty harsh realities in those countries and we're not doing enough to support them," she said.
Mr. Trudeau said Canada is committed to increasing funding for the United Nations refugee agency. He also said the international community must do more to help neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and others to help refugees succeed.