Prime Minster of Canada Justin Trudeau arrived in Washington on Wednesday for an official visit with President Obama. The White House will host Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, on Thursday evening for the first official state dinner for a Canadian prime minister in almost 20 years.
The U.S. and Canada share one of the longest international borders in the world, are key allies in international affairs and have a significant bilateral trading relationship. The October election of Trudeau, of the Liberal Party, dislodged former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, marking a significant shift in Canadian politics to the center-left. Since taking office, Trudeau has created one of the most diverse and gender-balanced cabinets in Canadian history, spoken out about LGBT rights and his staunch support of feminism, made the fight against climate change a policy priority, and accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the ongoing civil war. Not bad for a mere 5 months in office.
The American media have focused largely on Trudeau's rugged good looks and youthful approach to politics. While Canadian politics typically garner only lackluster attention in the mainstream U.S. media, the rise of Trudeau has also shone a light on what's possible when you elect a progressive leader. Trudeau's swift and progressive policy decisions have reoriented Canada as an internationalist country, with clear priorities in the area of human security both at home and abroad. We can see these ideas reflected somewhat in the American Democratic primary candidates' political platforms, which have been pushed left by a rising youth vote. Contrarily, Trudeau's approach stands in stark opposition to the current populist and xenophobic policy platforms of the American Republican primary candidates.
Trudeau's visit is set to focus on some key areas of collective concern. Obama and Trudeau will discuss their common approaches to combating climate change, to developing pre-screening mechanisms to facilitate trade across the U.S.-Canada border, and issues related to the fight against ISIS.
Both leaders should broaden their discussions to focus on other key foreign policy issues of collective concern. Some of the key areas include:
1. Confronting humanitarian crises around the world, and implementing the "responsibility to protect" principle. Trudeau and Obama must discuss the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe stemming from the flow of refugees fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, a focus should be placed on how to effectively respond to ISIS, how to adopt efficient mechanisms to expedite the safe migration of refugees and how to adequately implement the international community's "responsibility to protect" principle to shield civilians from gross human rights violations.
2. Adopting a human security approach to global issues. The former Liberal government of Canada, under Paul Martin and earlier under Jean Chrétien, adopted a human-centered approach to foreign policy that focused on the real threats to people's lives and well-being. Global initiatives connected to this approach, including the landmark ban on anti-personnel landmines and an international treaty on the protection of children in armed conflict, had support from President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBudget impasses mark a critical turning point in Biden's presidency Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins MORE and other key American policymakers. It is time to revisit this approach to more effectively protect populations from gross human rights violations and other severe threats to their lives and dignity.
3. Revitalizing multilateral peace support operations. The U.S. has begun to reinvigorate its commitment to peace support operations, pressuring U.N. member states to contribute essential military and civilian resources to support peaceful resolution of conflicts. Trudeau and Obama should discuss opportunities to work together to advocate for greater multilateral attention and resources for these endeavors.
The election of Justin Trudeau highlights what it is possible to achieve with progressive policies that reflect enlightened thinking. There is a unique opportunity for both leaders to collaborate more fully on their shared values and interests. In addition, the American public might benefit from seeing what progressive policies can accomplish for citizens both at home and abroad.
Barqueiro is an assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore.