U.S. secretary of state highlights shared interests with Canada during Montreal visit

MONTREAL — The United States needs Canada, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Montreal Friday as he highlighted his country's shared interests with its northern neighbour.

Neither Canada nor the United States can manage alone current challenges such as climate change, global health issues and the impact of new technologies, Blinken told a group of dignitaries and university students. The Americans, he said, want to work with partners who share their values and interests.

“When I started this role, my boss, President Biden, told me, above all, make an effort to re-energize our partnerships, our alliances. We’re starting with the closest partner: Canada,” he said.

Accompanied by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, Blinken spoke entirely in French during the event at the Biosphere, an environmental museum located in the former U.S. Expo 67 pavilion. It was the second and final day of Blinken's first visit to Canada since becoming secretary of state.

Blinken and Joly both spoke about the humanitarian and security crisis in Haiti — echoing comments made in Ottawa on Thursday, when Blinken said talks about a multilateral military intervention in the Caribbean nation are ongoing and remain a work in progress.

“There is an enormous challenge for the Haitian people, the suffering is terrible, and I think we all agree, we have to act and do something, but by supporting solutions that come from Haiti,” he said.

The security issues in the country, including the blockade of an oil terminal by armed gangs, have to be addressed, he said, and Washington has been supplying equipment, including armoured vehicles, to the Haitian police to help them retake control of the country.

“Obviously, we want a political transition and eventually elections, but how can we have elections when the Haitian people can’t even move around?” he asked.

Earlier in the day, during a visit to a public market, Blinken was met by a handful of protesters opposed to a possible international intervention.

Joly said she knows members of the Haitian diaspora have concerns about an international military intervention. “Our goal is not to intervene and to impose, our goal is to help, because we have an obligation to help,” she said.

The secretary of state said Canada and the U.S. are also closely aligned on the double threat to the Arctic from climate change and Russian expansionism.

As melting ice makes Arctic waters more navigable, Canada will face a growing sovereignty and security challenge, Joly said, adding that she sees climate change, collaborating with Indigenous people and security issues in the North as three issues that must be addressed together.

"We have exactly the same perspective," Blinken said.

Blinken began his Montreal trip with a visit to Lithion, a company that makes batteries for electric vehicles by recycling 95 per cent of the material in used batteries.

Calling it "extraordinary," Blinken said the company gives him hope for the fight against climate change and described it as an example of the partnerships between Canada and the United States. U.S. companies have invested in Lithion, which is part of a bilateral supply chain.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2022.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press