Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers are in the United States to attend the Summit of the Americas, where they will join other world leaders to discuss upgrading continental defences against threats from China and Russia, among other issues.
On June 8, Trudeau will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in Los Angeles, where Biden will host leaders from across the western hemisphere at the official opening ceremony of the ninth Summit of the Americas. This year’s summit focuses on “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for the hemisphere.
In particular, Canadian and U.S. leaders are to address their shared challenges, including the much-needed upgrade to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)—a joint command system for the two countries to provide aerospace warning and protection for the continent.
On June 7, Trudeau and Anand toured the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where NORAD’s command centre is located. Both countries have said that this binational defence system is in dire need of enhancement if it is to counter the increased threats from potential aggressors like China and Russia.
“We’re seeing a time where the world is shifting rapidly,” Trudeau said, pointing to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, as well as the prospect of hypersonic long-range weapons being developed in China and Russia.
“Whether it’s new threats, new technologies, or shifting geopolitical realities, it becomes all the more important for friends and allies like Canada and the United States to continue working so closely together.”
In response to these threats, Anand pointed to four key principles: situational awareness, command and control, research and development, and an understanding of the potential threats North America could face.
“Those four principles,” she said, “will continue to form the foundation of our discussions and plans relating to NORAD modernization.”
Neither Trudeau nor Anand provided a specific timeline as to when such upgrades will be carried out.
“We have a number of initiatives on the table right now with the United States and we will be coming forward shortly with a plan to modernize NORAD,” Anand said on June 7. “I will leave it at that.”
Issues on the Agenda
On June 7, Trudeau, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly arrived in Los Angeles, where they will spend the rest of the week meeting with their counterparts.
Trudeau is meeting with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley on June 8 to discuss environmental priorities. He will later attend a roundtable with Latin America and Caribbean leaders to talk about defending democratic values, climate change policies, and gender equality issues.
Trudeau will also speak with Shilpan Amin, the president of General Motors International, about the role of electric vehicles in the western hemisphere’s climate policies.
Guilbeault is expected to take part in discussions about climate change policies, while Joly meets with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard.
One notable aspect of this year’s summit is President Biden’s decision to exclude Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba due to their dubious human rights records. The decision drew protests from other Latin American countries, in particular, a boycott from one of the forum’s most important members: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
On June 6, Trudeau was asked about his view of Biden’s decision, to which he answer without passing judgment.
“It’s extremely important that we have an opportunity to engage with our fellow hemispheric partners—some like-minded, some less like-minded,” he said, adding that they all share a number of similar challenges, including migration pressures, climate change, and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic—all three of which are on the agenda at the weeklong summit.
The Canadian Press contributed to this article.