Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that Canada will seek a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council starting in 2021, citing the country's resettling of Syrian refugees and a desire to take part in U.N. peacekeeping efforts as evidence of a renewed commitment to engagement in world affairs.
Trudeau, who took office in November, said Canada's ideals align with many of those dear to the U.N., including human rights, gender equality and diversity. Canada last held a seat on the Security Council in 2000.
"It's time for Canada to step up once again," he said.
Trudeau's announcement at the U.N. in front of about 300 diplomats, staffers and others came after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Canada and meeting with Trudeau last month.
Canada has served six times on the Security Council since the late 1940s. In 2010 it lost a seat to Portugal, a defeat blamed on a lackluster attempt by the Conservative government then in charge.
The 15-member council has five permanent members who each have veto power: The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Ten additional members are elected for two-year terms.
The 193 members of the U.N. General Assembly won't vote on the seat Canada is pursuing until the fall of 2020.
The 44-year-old Trudeau said his country has shown it has a role to play on the Security Council. He emphasized Canada's commitment to resettling refugees from the war in Syria.
The country has now accepted more than 25,000, a dramatic change from the previous Conservative government, which declined to resettle more refugees despite the haunting image last year of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy's aunt lives in Canada.
Trudeau said the new residents will make Canada stronger. "People have come to Canada seeking a better life and have contributed immensely," he said. "This is about building a stronger economy in five years, in ten years."
Trudeau also said Canada can play an important role in peacekeeping operations, not in terms of quantity but in quality, perhaps in situations where the French language is needed.
Lloyd Axworthy, Canada's foreign affairs minister in the late 1990s, said Canada has lost standing at the U.N. over the last decade and needs to work hard to regain it. He said Canada had largely abandoned peacekeeping and that Trudeau needs to come up with an agenda that also shows a commitment foreign aid, which has been declining steadily.
Later on Wednesday, Trudeau spoke during the world body's 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. He called himself a feminist and said that every time he makes the claim, the "Twitterverse explodes."
"It simply is saying that I believe in the equality of men and women," said Trudeau, whose Cabinet is 50 percent women.