Justin Trudeau meets with Barbados leader as Summit of the Americas begins

Click to play video: 'Canada has opportunity to strengthen influence ahead of Summit of the Americas'
Canada has opportunity to strengthen influence ahead of Summit of the Americas
WATCH: Canada has opportunity to strengthen influence ahead of Summit of the Americas – Jun 7, 2022

U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are charting markedly different paths Wednesday at the Summit of the Americas.

Before his leader-level meetings get underway, Biden is sitting down to tape an appearance with talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel.

Trudeau, who arrived in Los Angeles late Tuesday, is getting down to work on environmental priorities with Barbados counterpart Mia Mottley.

Later, the prime minister will attend a roundtable meeting with Latin American and Caribbean leaders to discuss climate change, defending democratic values and promoting gender equality.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau confirms spending boost for Norad, tours Cheyenne Mountain facility'
Trudeau confirms spending boost for Norad, tours Cheyenne Mountain facility

He’ll also talk with Shilpan Amin, the president of General Motors International, about electric vehicles, the hemisphere’s climate goals and the effort to energize economic growth.

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Biden and Trudeau will cross paths later in the day, when the president hosts all of the delegations at the official opening ceremony.

The meetings mark a whipsaw pivot for Trudeau, who spent Tuesday afternoon in the rarified air of the Rocky Mountains for meetings with military officials in Colorado.

He and Defence Minister Anita Anand toured the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, the fortified command centre that houses part of Norad, the joint-command continental defence system.

Read more: Analysis - L.A. Summit offers Canada a chance to boost its global influence

Both countries agree Norad, the only binational defence system of its kind in the world, is badly in need of upgrades if it is to counter the modern-day threats of potential aggressors like Russia and China.

Trudeau confirmed the federal budget’s promise to spend $250 million over five years to support NORAD modernization. But neither Trudeau nor Anand are offering any clues as to what sort of timeline may be involved.

Anand would only say “a number of initiatives” are on the table and that a modernization plan would be forthcoming “shortly” – a message she’s been delivering for months.

Trudeau and Anand, flanked by Norad’s U.S. and Canadian commanders, met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a boardroom festooned with images of fighter jets and military insignia.

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“I get up every single day, as do all of our other members, knowing that we have the most noble mission on the planet, and that’s defending our homeland,” said U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, the current joint commander of Norad and U.S. Northern Command.

The Canadian delegation later visited a granite-encased, concrete-walled Norad command fortress that seemed more like the lair of a James Bond villain than a military base.

Read more: Trudeau mum over Biden’s move to exclude ‘less like-minded’ countries from summit

VanHerck presented Trudeau with a hunk of the mountainous rock that surrounds the base, mounted on a platform and adorned with two of the commander’s challenge coins.

“Very impressive,” Trudeau marvelled as officials demonstrated the facility’s imposing blast door, a metre-thick, 20-tonne hydraulic behemoth fortified with 22 thick steel rods that slide shut to ensure an impermeable seal.

Afterward, the prime minister held up the shared responsibilities of Norad – the only binational joint-command early warning system in the world – as a perfect illustration of the unique Canada-U.S. relationship.

“We’re seeing a time where the world is shifting rapidly,” Trudeau said – a reference to Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, as well as the prospect of hypersonic long-range weapons being developed in Russia and China.

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“Whether it’s new threats, new technologies, or shifting geopolitical realities, it becomes all the more important for friends and allies like Canada and the United States to continue working so closely together.”

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