OTTAWA, Canada, Monday February 17, 2020 – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not be meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders this week after all, choosing to remain at home to deal with a protest that is shutting down train service across the country.
Trudeau had been scheduled to participate in the CARICOM 31st Intersessional Heads of Government Conference in Barbados to further strengthen his government’s partnership with the regional grouping and, according to media reports in Canada, make a pitch for a United Nations Security Council seat.
However, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday evening said he had cancelled the trip and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne would represent Canada at the February 18-19 meeting instead.
“Following the government’s ongoing efforts to address infrastructure disruptions across the country, the prime minister will convene the Incident Response Group tomorrow to discuss steps forward,” the statement read.
“Our priority remains the safety and security of all Canadians and the swift resolution of this issue to restore service across the rail system in accordance with the law.”
Protesters opposed to the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project through the Wet’suwet’en nation’s traditional territory in British Columbia have blockaded rail lines in parts of the country. And Trudeau has been criticized for his overseas travel while the situation remains unresolved.
He returned to Canada last Friday after spending a week in Ethiopia, Kuwait, Senegal and Germany.
During his trip to Barbados, which was to begin today, he had been scheduled to discuss with the regional leaders, challenges of mutual interest, including protecting oceans and the environment in the fight against climate change in a region that is particularly vulnerable to its impacts, as well as creating good jobs for the middle class and sustainable economic growth. He was also to participate in group discussions and bilateral meetings with the CARICOM leaders.
A statement from the regional side stated that Trudeau, who had contacted CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, and CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque about the cancellation due to the “pressing domestic matters”, said the Canadian Prime Minister reiterated his desire to strengthen ties between the region and Canada and looked forward to another opportunity to interact with the leaders.