LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted to make a virtue of the hottest domestic issue on his plate Wednesday, using the international stage to pitch the Liberal government's Syrian refugee settlement plan as a shining global example.
"We have a responsibility — to ourselves and to the world — to show that inclusive diversity is a strength and a force that can vanquish intolerance, radicalism and hate," Trudeau said in a speech to a well-heeled crowd at Canada House in central London.
Trudeau's politically charged appeal plumbed many of the themes of the October election that vaulted his Liberals to power and it came a day after his government revealed a revised timeline for accepting some 25,000 refugees fleeing civil war and Islamic terrorism in Syria.
Justin Trudeau shake hands with Queen Elizabeth II during a private audience at Buckingham Palace on Nov. 25, 2015 in London, England. (Photo: Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Rather than rush in all 25,000 by year end — as the Liberals promised during the election — the new plan calls for refugees to be identified and brought to Canada over the next three months.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Trudeau said the terrorist attacks in Paris two weeks ago raised public fears but he insisted security was "always at the heart" of the government's thoughts as it put together the settlement program.
Not only is security a primary government responsibility, said Trudeau, "we were aware that people were going to raise security as a reason not to welcome refugees at all."
"Getting this done right has always been what we are focused on."
The message provided a sobering counterpoint to his morning audience with the Queen, where Trudeau presented his two youngest children Ella-Grace and Hadrien just as his own prime minister father, Pierre, had once introduced a young Justin to the monarch.
The Queen greeted Trudeau with recognition, saying it was nice to see him again, "but under different circumstances."
"I will say, you were much taller than me the last time we met," Trudeau replied, prompting a laugh from the 89-year-old monarch.
"Well, this is extraordinary to think of, isn't it?" she said.
The Buckingham Palace visit leavened what is proving to be another heavy week of international diplomacy for the freshly minted Canadian leader.
With the Syrian refugee file on the boil, events in the Middle East continue to spiral following the downing of a Russian fighter jet this week by Turkish forces.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. (Photo: Justin Tallis/Pool via AP)
The British parliament votes Thursday on extending its aerial bombing campaign into Syria, while Trudeau campaigned on a promise to end the bombing runs of Canada's CF-18s.
Trudeau's sweeping speech to a crowd that included Mark Carney, the Canadian governor of the Bank of England, a number of captains of industry and members of the House of Lords, attempted to wrap all his government's themes under a single banner: Diversity.
He argued that a thriving middle class is the key to making Canada's diversity work.
"Economic disaster manifests itself in many ways," said Trudeau. "Fear and mistrust of others who are different is one of the most common, dangerous expressions."
He said Canada faces a constant debate between those "who would have us retrench, close ranks, build walls" and those who recognize that the country's strength lies in its multicultural, polyglot nature.
Trudeau also attempted to smooth the waters between Russia and Turkey, stating it's still not "entirely clear" what transpired in the airspace over the Turkish and Syrian borders.
"You were much taller than me the last time we met." — Trudeau to Queen Elizabeth
"I certainly don't think that it's helpful to start off by me choosing to point fingers to one side or another," Trudeau said before heading to 10 Downing Street for an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.
As he sat down with the Conservative U.K. leader, Trudeau noted they'd be discussing the "very real security concerns that we're all faced with around the world and at home."
Trudeau is on his second whirlwind tour on the international summit circuit in as many weeks.
He leaves the United Kingdom on Thursday for Valetta, Malta, where the 54-country Commonwealth is holding its leaders' summit.
He said he's been encouraged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama to push some of the Commonwealth members to step up their ambition on fighting climate change.
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