Justin Trudeau is in Manila for the East Asia Summit, where Canada has been invited for the first time as an observer.
The forum is an annual event held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in which countries discuss regional and global security concerns. Canada’s observer status means the prime minister will be included in talks about North Korea, among other key topics.
A meeting with controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is on the prime minister’s agenda for the event. Federal officials say Duterte went “on a limb” to invite Trudeau to the security event. Duterte is facing heated criticism for extrajudicial killings by his government that have left thousands dead in the Philippines’ violent drug war. Trudeau is facing pressure to confront Duterte over the killings.
The invite to the event, to which permanent membership has only been expanded a few times since the ASEAN was created, shows Canada has returned to the world stage, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says.
“Canada has never been there before, so when the prime minister says ‘Canada is back,’ the fact that he has been invited … is a very, very important sign of that,” she says.
“Our government is acting on our pledge that ‘Canada is back,’ and the world is recognizing that.”
This isn’t the first time the phrase “Canada is back” – or something similar to it – has been used to describe Canada’s presence in international affairs under the Trudeau government.
Trudeau himself said “we’re back” in October 2015 after his Liberals won the federal election.
In a thinly veiled insult directed at the then-outgoing Conservative government headed by Stephen Harper, Trudeau commented that “many” in the country had “worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive vote in the world over the past 10 years” on Oct. 20, 2015.
But more than two years on, Trudeau frequently draws criticism for his public persona, with some labelling him “PM Selfie” due to his habit of not only posing for photos with admirers, but the media attention he’s drawn, which has included landing on the cover of Rolling Stone and wearing flashy socks at diplomatic events.
An Angus Reid poll conducted last month shows many Canadians “have mixed feelings” about the prime minister’s image.
When asked if they thought his celebrity was good for the country, 54 per cent agreed, while only 19 per cent did not.
The poll also asked Canadians to describe Trudeau using one word. While exactly half went with “charismatic,” more than a quarter (26 per cent) used “arrogant.” Words like “flaky” (23 per cent) and “weak” (22 per cent) also rated high.
So, has Trudeau improved Canada’s image abroad? Or do you think is his image is getting a bit old? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll above.
With files from The Canadian Press