NEW YORK — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found himself in a whirlwind, 10-meeting day in New York City on Wednesday as he prepared Canada's campaign for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Trudeau had one-on-one meetings with seven world leaders, bumped into two former U.S. presidents, attended three public events at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum with activist Melinda Gates and joined a youth rally at Madison Square Garden.
"It's always a busy time at the UN," Trudeau said, as he sat down with the president of Tajikistan, before meeting the leaders of the Netherlands, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Uganda and Indonesia.
One spokesman said this might be a personal record for the number of bilaterals in a single day. It's part of Canada's effort to win a Security Council seat in 2021, a campaign that has not formally been launched but which officials say is a underlying theme of this week's myriad events before Trudeau speaks to the General Assembly on Thursday.
"There's a lot of work that goes into this," said Trudeau spokesman Cameron Ahmad. "Obviously we have a voice on the world stage .... We generally believe Canada can play an active role."
The prime minister has also been promoting what he calls a progressive trade agenda. He told different New York audiences that bolstering labour protections, gender equality and Indigenous rights in trade agreements is designed to help more people feel the benefits of trade and generate public support for international commerce.
The prime minister participated in an armchair discussion with U.S. philanthropist Gates to talk about women's rights before speaking to a noisy arena where thousands of youngsters celebrated engagement in politics at We Day UN.
He spoke about feminism with Gates. He told her how his father believed in human rights, but couldn't be called a feminist — and how Trudeau himself had a sudden epiphany one day when he realized the term applies to anyone who believes in working for greater equality.
"There is a reclaiming of that word, in a good way," he said.
Trudeau chatted with Bill Clinton, who spoke before him at the Bloomberg event. He later chatted with Barack Obama, who spoke after him at the Gates event. And in this day of diplomatic speed-dating, he kept running into the Prime Minister Mark Rutte of Holland.
"Twice in one day. What a pleasure," Trudeau said as he sat down with Rutte, who had participated in the same Bloomberg trade panel. They saluted the implementation of the Canada-Europe CETA trade agreement and Canada-Netherlands co-operation in a variety of areas.
Rutte said: ''Our history goes back a very long time. To the Second World War. What you did — what Canadians did — to liberate the Netherlands we will never, never, never forget.''
Trudeau's meetings with leaders from a diverse array of regions also involved a selection of the world's ongoing crises, Ahmad said. The meeting with Indonesia was to include an exchange about atrocities against Myanmar's Muslim minority, while those with the Latin Americans would touch on the political and economic crisis roiling Venezuela, he said.
Trudeau doesn't have a meeting planned with U.S. President Donald Trump — but his wife Sophie Gregoire attended a lunch hosted by Melania Trump among several events she attended in New York.