Skip to main content

Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday. She later spoke on Saskatoon.John Woods/The Canadian Press

A week after Canadian forces were in a firefight against Islamist militants in Iraq and the leader of Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the killing of thousands in Nigeria, Hillary Clinton faced a boisterous crowd in Saskatchewan's largest city and called on global leaders to do more to face a "generational challenge" of extremism spreading around the world.

"This is a generational challenge and it must be waged on many fronts," the former U.S. secretary of state told a crowd of more than 2,100. "It is a struggle that all of us have a stake in making sure our side wins."

Ms. Clinton is considered a likely Democratic candidate for the 2016 presidential election. During speeches in Saskatoon and Winnipeg on Wednesday, she wagged her finger at questions about whether she intends to run. U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said on Wednesday morning that he could challenge Ms. Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

While she was coy about plans to run, Ms. Clinton promised the U.S. political debate would continue. "We'll try to provide our Canadian friends and neighbours with a lot of entertainment."

The former senator, who published a memoir last summer, used her first public statements in a month to call on the world to rally behind the "great democracies" at a time of bleak ethnic strife and conflict.

"We have to show the world that free people and free markets, human rights and human dignity, respect for our fellow men and women is our core strength. Great democracies like yours and mine need to set that example," she said.

Earlier in the day, she toured the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, citing the Winnipeg museum as a symbol of the tolerance and values that Canada and the U.S. should champion.

Taking a harsh tone on jihadis and calling for a "global infrastructure for counterterrorism," Ms. Clinton's speeches came as Canada's federal government prepares to table new anti-terror legislation that will make it easier for police to detain potential terror suspects.

Ms. Clinton said that the early January attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the October shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa were "stark reminders of the threats we face together."

"We can't close our eyes to the fact that at this time in our world's history there is a distorted and dangerous strain of extremism within the Muslim world which continues to spread," she said during a luncheon in Winnipeg.

"We are confronting an ideology of hate."

After impersonating Russian President Vladimir Putin to the delight of 2,000 people in Winnipeg, Ms. Clinton called on countries to provide more equipment and training to help Ukrainians "defend their borders" against Russian-backed separatists.

Both Canada and the U.S. have so far not provided military aid to the Ukrainian government as it battles a year-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and saw the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner.

Speaking a day after President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in Washington, Ms. Clinton said the world's democracies need to do more to make people believe they have a stake in creating a better world.

Ms. Clinton was Mr. Obama's secretary of state when the proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline was sent to American authorities.

On Wednesday, Ms. Clinton wouldn't express support for the pipeline.

"We have differences and you won't get me to talk about Keystone because I have steadily made clear that I'm not going to express an opinion. This is in our process and that's where it belongs," she said.

The pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast and has become a politically charged issue in the United States. Business groups have pressured the Obama administration to approve the pipeline, while environmental organizations have warned of the consequences it could have on global warming.

The organizers of the two speeches on Wednesday would not comment on how much Ms. Clinton was paid. In the past, she has charged as much as $300,000 to speak at an American university. The Canadians who attended Ms. Clinton's speeches on Wednesday paid between $80 and $300 each to see her – about the same rate as a professional hockey game.