Von der Leyen brings charm offensive to Canada

Von der Leyen brings charm offensive to Canada

OTTAWA — Ursula von der Leyen says women’s rights are collateral damage in Vladimir Putin’s war.

“This is not only a war on Ukraine. It is also a war on human rights,” she told Canadian lawmakers on the eve of International Women’s Day. “It is a war on women’s rights.”

The European Commission president said Europe will support Ukraine for as long as it takes, echoing a refrain of the Liberal government. She received several standing ovations from all sides of the House of Commons — revealing a glimpse of the fact Ukraine is barely a partisan issue in Canada.

“I am a European of German nationality. It was German Nazism and fascism that brought death and destruction upon Europe and the world, but Allied Forces brought liberty back to all of us,” she said. “We owe our democracy also to you, the people of Canada.”

Defense and national security are the throughlines connecting events on von der Leyen’s Canadian itinerary.

She was welcomed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kingston, Ontario, at a Canadian Forces base two hours from the capital. The leaders toured a lithium recycling firm in the city, one with Canadian and European footprints, before returning to Ottawa for a dinner at the Canadian War Museum in a room flanked by tanks.

Her speech heaved heavy flattery on her Canadian hosts, praising Trudeau for his gender-balanced Cabinet before drawing her audience’s focus to her own initiatives. Before the end of her five-year term next year, she declared, “50 percent of all managers of the European Commission will be women.”

Von der Leyen praised Canada earlier in the day for doing “more than its fair share” and “going way beyond what is necessary” to support Ukraine, “compared to others.” She did not name names.

Ottawa announced Tuesday plans to ratchet up support for Ukraine by extending its engineer training in Poland. Combat medical trainers will also be sent to train forces.

In addition to the seven electrical transformers that Canada will donate to repair Ukraine’s damaged power grid, the government has pledged to give C$3 million to fund de-mining efforts in the country.

Von der Leyen will head to Washington Wednesday after a meeting with Governor General Mary Simon.

Her Ottawa visit and address is a pre-show to U.S. President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Canada in March, his first official trip since entering the White House.

Defense, clean energy and trade are overlapping themes expected to be addressed during Biden’s visit, which official dates have yet to be announced.


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