OTTAWA – As he departed the annual gathering of world leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced renewed questions about the state of the Canada-U.S. relationship, and what his government is doing to address ongoing international humanitarian crises.

After spending the last few days meeting with other world leaders, speaking about Canada’s contributions globally, and campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council, the ongoing uncertainty over NAFTA and tensions between Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump persisted.

While not a formal part of the United Nations General Assembly agenda, the state of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation talks remained an undercurrent for the Canadian delegation. Both Trump and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s counterpart U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke at, and on the sidelines of the UN, about why a deal remains unmade and their plans to go ahead with the Mexico bilateral trade pact if they can’t come to an agreement with Canada soon.

Speaking to this, Trudeau said that Canada will “keep working as long as it takes to get the right deal for Canada,” but that doing so involves “feeling confident about the path forward as we move forward, if we do, on a NAFTA 2.0.”

An interaction between Trudeau and Trump on Tuesday appeared emblematic of the two countries’ ongoing tension. When Trudeau approached Trump—who appeared to be reading the toast he was about to give at the luncheon— the pair exchanged a quick handshake but Trump did not stand up.

Trudeau downplayed this exchange, saying that he didn’t think there was “anything to read into it.” He said that it was like many UN interactions: “quick but cordial.” Trudeau said he has “all sorts of opportunities” to speak with Trump, “and that was not the time.”

MPs could debate Suu Kyi citizenship

The Prime Minister also offered new comments on the ongoing humanitarian crises in Venezuela, and Myanmar.

When asked whether the House of Commons’ recent declaration of the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as genocide bolsters the call to have Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship revoked, Trudeau said it’s something MPs could debate.

“That’s one of the questions that certainly Parliament can reflect on, it was Parliament that granted her honorary citizenship, and that’s a conversation we could certainly have,” Trudeau said. He added that despite this, whether or not she has Canadian citizenship, it wouldn’t help in solving the crisis.

Trudeau called the Venezuelan situation “catastrophic” and criticized leader Nicolás Maduro for a “failure of leadership.”

He also defended the International Criminal Court, which Trump has recently critiqued as having no legitimacy. Trudeau said Canada will be joining a handful of South American countries in requesting that the ICC look into the Venezuelan government’s actions.

Trudeau said that his government’s ongoing push to get a seat on the UN Security Council is to help make sure that Canada is part of the highest-level conversations when it comes to democracies and defending human rights.

“This is a meaningful way for us to advance causes that are important to Canada, and to Canadians, like human rights, at a time where the world is certainly under various types of stress,” he said.

While Trudeau is departing the UN, Freeland will remain as she is set to deliver Canada’s address to the UN General Assembly at the end of the week.



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