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Justin Trudeau warns against politics of fear in first UN speech

Canadas Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 20, 2016.

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Without directly mentioning Donald Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to warn against the U.S. Republican candidate's divisive style of politics.

Mr. Trudeau said much of people's anxiety around the world is rooted in economic concerns, and that world leaders are faced with a choice when dealing with these worries.

"Do we exploit that anxiety or do we allay it? Exploiting it is easy. But in order to allay it, we need to be prepared to answer some very direct questions," Mr. Trudeau said in the General Assembly hall, which was about two-thirds empty for his speech.

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"What will create the good, well-paying jobs that people want, and need and deserve?"

The exploitation of those anxieties only creates fear, Mr. Trudeau argued, adding that "fear has never created a single job or fed a single family."

Mr. Trudeau presented his Liberal government's economic plan to grow the middle class as a way to ease people's anxieties, emphasizing the need for infrastructure spending, education and an economy that benefits all, not just the wealthiest 1 per cent.

Earlier in the day, U.S. President Barack Obama shared similar sentiments, endorsing the benefits of globalization and inclusion.

"Today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself. So the answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration. Instead, we must work together to make sure the benefits of such integration are broadly shared and that the disruptions – economic, political and cultural – that are caused by integration are squarely addressed," Mr. Obama said in his final address to the General Assembly.

Mr. Trudeau spoke directly to Canada's inclusiveness Tuesday, touting the country's effort to resettle more than 31,000 Syrian refugees since last November.

"Canadians have opened their hearts and their arms to families fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria. And from the moment they arrived, those 31,000 refugees were welcomed – not as burdens, but as neighbours and friends. As new Canadians," Mr. Trudeau said to applause.

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He said he is confident Canada will fully integrate the Syrian newcomers, who will thrive as members of the middle class they are.

"Refugee camps are teeming with Syria's middle class. Doctors and lawyers. Teachers and entrepreneurs. They're well educated. They work hard. They care about their families. They want a better life – a safer and more secure future for their kids – as we all do," Mr. Trudeau said.

The refugee and migrant crisis was a major theme during Mr. Trudeau's two-day visit to the UN. He attended a number of side events on the matter, including a leaders' summit with Mr. Obama and the leaders of Germany, Sweden, Mexico, Ethiopia and Jordan on Tuesday.

Canada made a number of refugee-related announcements in New York, including plans to partner with the UN Refugee Agency and billionaire George Soros to help other countries implement a private refugee sponsorship system similar to Canada's.

Looming over Mr. Trudeau's first UN General Assembly was Canada's intention to seek a seat on the Security Council, the UN's most powerful branch, after years of chilly relations with multilateral body.

Canada is facing tough competition from Ireland and Norway for the 2021-2022 seat. Although he didn't directly mention the Security Council seat during his speech, Mr. Trudeau outlined Canada's plans to remake itself on the world stage.

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"Our citizens, the nearly 7.5 billion people we collectively serve, are better than the cynics and pessimists think they are. They want their problems solved not exploited," Mr. Trudeau said. "We know we can't solve these problems alone. … But we're Canadian. And we're here to help."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Michelle Zilio is a reporter in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau. Previously, she was the associate producer of CTV’s Question Period and a political writer for CTVNews.ca. Michelle has also worked as a parliamentary reporter for iPolitics, covering foreign affairs, defence and immigration, and as a city desk reporter at the Ottawa Citizen. More

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