Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that Canada will seek a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council starting in 2021, citing the country’s resettling of Syrian refugees and a desire to take part in peacekeeping efforts as evidence of a renewed commitment to engagement in world affairs.
Trudeau, who took office in November, said Canada’s ideals align with many of those dear to the U.N., including human rights, gender equality and diversity. Canada last held a seat on the Security Council in 2000.
“It’s time for Canada to step up once again,” Trudeau said. Canada will compete with Ireland and Norway for two available seats on the council.
Trudeau’s announcement at the U.N. in front of about 300 diplomats, staffers and others came after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Canada and meeting with Trudeau last month.
Canada has served six times on the Security Council since the late 1940s. In 2010 it lost a seat to Portugal, a defeat blamed on a lackluster attempt by the Conservative government then in charge.
The 15-member council has five permanent members who each have veto power: The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Ten additional members are elected for two-year terms.
The country has now accepted more than 25,000, a dramatic change from the previous Conservative government, which declined to resettle more refugees despite the haunting image last year of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy’s aunt lives in Canada.
Trudeau said the new residents will make Canada stronger. “People have come to Canada seeking a better life and have contributed immensely,” he said. “This is about building a stronger economy in five years, in ten years.”
Trudeau also said Canada can play an important role in peacekeeping operations, not in terms of quantity but in quality, perhaps in situations where the French language is needed.
Later on Wednesday, Trudeau met separately with Ban. After the meeting, the U.N. issued and later retracted a statement saying Canada would resume its contributions to the U.N. relief agency that aids Palestinian refugees.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said late Wednesday that the initial statement was an early draft sent by mistake “that did not properly reflect” the discussion between Trudeau and Ban.