KIGALI, Rwanda –

Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Ralph Goodale says the Canadian delegation hopes to make an impact in critical conversations about climate change and global food insecurity among Commonwealth nations in Rwanda this week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly arrived in the capital Kigali on Wednesday evening to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting over the next three days.

They’ve expressed that their mission is to build support for Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia, put international pressure on Russia to cease aggressions, and help address some of the geopolitical fallout of the war.

Goodale, who serves on the board of governors of the Commonwealth, says Canada has a larger platform to stand on at the summit because other international powers like the United States, Russia and China are not there.

“We will have important contributions to make to some very critical international discussions,” Goodale told reporters in Kigali on Wednesday.

The Commonwealth is made up of 54 independent nations with historic ties to the British Crown, which together represent about 2.5 billion people.

The countries range from some of the richest economies in the world to some of the poorest.

Several of those poorer countries have felt the pangs of famine that’s becoming a pressing issue around the world as access to grain from Ukraine and Russia have been limited by the war.

“There are countries in the Commonwealth that are very directly affected by the threat of starvation. And that’s brought on by a lot of factors, including climate change, but it’s particularly now the consequence of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s aggression,” Goodale said .

“It’s critically important for Canada to have the opportunity in a forum like this, where you really see the impact of the war in Ukraine, for Canada’s voice to be there.”

This will be the first time Commonwealth Heads of Government have met in person since 2018. The 2020 summit, like most events, was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau arrived in Kigali on Wednesday but the official welcome ceremony begins Friday. Leaders are expected to sit down for a series of closed-door meetings Friday and Saturday.

Trudeau is also expected to pay his respects at the Kigali Genocide Memorial on Thursday in memory of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi people.

Though many world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are expected to be in attendance for the summit discussions, other leaders have opted to stay home.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are among the absentees.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2022.

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