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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen chat during a visit with members of the Canadian Armed Forces at CFB Kingston in Kingston, Ont., Tuesday, March 7, 2023.Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Canada and the European Union announced a suite of new measures Tuesday to strengthen economic ties and align their support for Ukraine in an effort to cement their relationship and show a united front against Russia.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave a rare address to parliamentarians late Tuesday in Ottawa after a full day of events with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, including a joint press conference at the Canadian Forces Base in Kingston. The two leaders sought to underscore the long-standing ties between Europe and Canada, calling each other trusted friends and pointing to the invasion of Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a flashpoint that brought the two governments closer together.

“We will never accept that Putin denies the very existence of Ukraine as a state and as a nation. We will never accept this threat to European security and to the very foundation of our international community,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “I know that Canada’s commitment is just as adamant as ours.”

Her address marked just the sixth time that a woman has made a joint address to Parliament, including members of the House and the Senate. Ms. von der Leyen emphasized the shared values between the European Union and Canada, and said Canada has gone above and beyond in its support for Ukraine.

“You understood the gravity of events in Ukraine before many others, including many Europeans,” she said, referencing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Canada’s decision to train Ukrainian troops, which she said was vital to preparing it for the current war.

Mr. Trudeau told the dignitaries gathered in the House that Ms. von der Leyen is one of the “many women around the world who have become the face of resistance to autocracy.”

At the press conference earlier Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau announced the federal government would extend its engineering training mission in Ukraine to at least the fall and deploy Canadian Forces medical trainers to help with combat medical skills. Ottawa is also investing $3-million to remove landmines in Ukraine and working with the European Union to help restore Ukraine’s power grid.

The two leaders also announced a series of economic initiatives focused on the transition to a net-zero economy. Ms. von der Leyen said the European Union hopes Canada will be a future source of hydrogen and the governments announced a commitment to an EU-Canada hydrogen supply chain. She also stressed the need for Europe to diversify its sources of critical minerals away from China and pinned her hopes on Canada.

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Experts say the sweeping announcements, which among other areas target academia and social issues, show the two leaders working to bolster their ties, as countries such as Russia and China show they can’t be relied on.

“The importance of this relationship has suddenly become increasingly salient. So the ties themselves need to be further strengthened,” said University of Victoria Professor Amy Verdun, who researches European politics.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen greet Canadian Forces personnel during an event, in Kingston, Ont., Tuesday, March 7, 2023.Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Roland Paris, director of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, said Ms. von der Leyen’s visit is about maintaining a strong relationship.

“And it’s important at a time like this for Canada and the EU to reaffirm their shared commitment to Ukraine, but also to a range of other issues, including energy security, climate change and others.”

Mr. Trudeau repeatedly underlined what Canada and Europe have in common, such as a commitment to Ukrainians, defence of democracy and protection of human rights.

The comments were echoed by Ms. von der Leyen, who told reporters, “Canada is one of the European Union’s most trusted partners.

“We’re both stepping up our support to Ukraine, including our military support because Ukrainians have all the necessary grit and spirit. But what they need is weapons.”

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tour the lithium-ion battery recycling firm Li-Cycle, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada March 7, 2023.LARS HAGBERG/Reuters

Beyond the joint-response to the war in Ukraine, Ms. von der Leyen said Europe wants to be able to rely on Canada for critical minerals. She said China produces 98 per cent of Europe’s supply of rare earth minerals, which she described as a risky overreliance on one source.

She also said Canada and the EU plan to take their 2021 critical mineral partnership to the “next level.” However, the high-level announcements Tuesday were scant on details.

Canada has a wealth of critical raw materials but has been criticized for slow and cumbersome regulatory processes required to scale up production. The risks of not moving faster were highlighted by the head of the International Energy Agency last month in Ottawa who called on Canada to play a global leadership role to defend against energy security crises triggered by countries that use fossil fuels and minerals as a weapon.

Ms. von der Leyen said they want to set up a green alliance between the European Union and Canada, with the goal of creating jobs, promoting growth, and boosting energy and climate co-operation.