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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken coming to Canada to showcase personal, political ties – Toronto Star

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is coming to Canada for a two-day visit this week, and will tour Montreal with Global Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly as a show of the personal ties that underpin the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
Blinken will visit Ottawa on Thursday for the more formal part of the agenda, a government official told the Star.
This will include discussions about the war in Ukraine, the political and security situation in Haiti as well as longer-term issues around Arctic security and Canada’s budding strategy to boost its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
On Friday — and at the request of the Americans — Blinken will spend the day in Montreal with Joly, a three-term Quebec Liberal MP and former Montreal mayoral candidate, as his guide.
The government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the trip, said the Montreal leg of the journey underscores the relationship that has developed between the two top diplomats in a frenetic year since they first met in Liverpool at the G7 summit of December 2021.
The Canadian visit is the product of a particularly harmonious meeting between Blinken and Joly last month in Washington, at the end of which Canada’s foreign minister made a suggestion.
“(Joly) said, ‘Tony, come and I’ll show you my hometown.’ It was a joke at the beginning, but after the last bilateral (meeting) that we had with them, which went particularly well, the Americans reached out to us and said, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” the official said.
Part of the synergy comes down to language.
Blinken spent a decade of his youth living in Paris with his mother and stepfather, the Holocaust survivor and renowned lawyer Samuel Pisar, and referred to the city in 2021 as “my second home.”
Blinken and Joly greet one another in French when they meet at international summits before switching back to English for the benefit of the non-French-speaking officials in their retinue, the official said.
But Blinken’s northern getaway will be more than a social call.
Russia’s war in Ukraine will naturally be on the agenda, with Ukraine and its western allies confronting Russian allegations that Ukraine could launch a “dirty bomb” attack and counter allegations that Russia could be planning a so-called “false flag” attack as a premise to escalate the conflict.
They will also address the violence, political crisis and cholera outbreak in Haiti. Canada and the U.S. are both home to large Haitian diaspora communities.
The Caribbean nation has spiralled into despair as opposition politicians demand that interim President Ariel Henry call a general election. Last month, a gang took control of Port-au-Prince’s largest port and has been blocking land shipments of fuel throughout the nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.
On top of this, the country is in the grips of a cholera epidemic that UNICEF said has resulted in 40 deaths and more than 1,700 suspected cases — nearly half of which include children below age 14. Hospitals have been unable to receive the supplies of vital medication as a result of the fuel shortages.
Canada and the U.S. delivered an undisclosed number of armoured vehicles and other equipment to the country that were purchased for use by the Haitian National Police. Haiti is, however, calling for an international assistance force to restore peace in the country.
The official said there will also be discussions about the Arctic, following last week’s release of a U.S. National Strategy for the Arctic Region, as well as Canada’s emerging strategy to deal with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including Australia, India, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and other nations.
A formal policy paper defining Canada’s approach to the region is expected later this year.
Washington last month rolled out a $50-billion (U.S.) plan to boost its semiconductor production capacity and the administration sees the potential for convergence with the Trudeau government’s budget investment of $4 billion to increase production of critical minerals such as cobalt, lithium and graphite that are necessary for electric vehicle batteries, among other items, the official noted. 
But meetings in Canada will be a continuation of a close collaboration that has developed over the last eight months, which have been dominated by the co-ordinated western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia and the delivery of aid and military supplies and weapons to the Ukrainian forces.
Between the G7, the G20 and NATO, the government official estimated that Joly and Blinken meet at least once a month.
At their last meeting on Sept. 30 in Washington, Blinken noted Canada and America’s shared interests and values, but also tacked on a personal note in praise of Joly.
“Mélanie, as always, thank you for the visit but, most importantly, thank you for your partnership, thank you for your friendship on a professional level, on a personal level,” he said. “We’re the closest of collaborators and it’s something I deeply value and I’m grateful for every day.”

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