Source: Michelle Zilio | The Globe and Mail
Ireland’s Prime Minister will travel to Montreal this weekend, where he will become the first foreign head of government to march in a pride parade with a Canadian prime minister.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will visit Canada from Saturday through Tuesday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with Mr. Varadkar – Ireland’s first openly gay leader– on Sunday, when the leaders will walk in the Montreal pride parade.
In a news release Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Varadkar will continue discussions from July, when the two leaders met for the first time in Dublin. Those talks will focus on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which comes into effect on Sept. 21, and issues related to diversity and inclusion.
“Ireland and Canada are close friends, and I look forward to meeting again with Taoiseach Varadkar in Montreal. Our two countries enjoy strong family ties, common values and a shared history,” Mr. Trudeau said in a statement on Tuesday. “Now, we are collaborating again to ensure that CETA creates good, well-paying middle-class jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers, said in a tweet on Monday that he will accompany Mr. Varadkar on the trip. Mr. Vickers was previously the sergeant-at-arms in the House of Commons and credited with stopping the Parliament Hill shooter in October, 2014.
While Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Varadkar share similar political views – they both support international co-operation, free trade and diversity – their countries’ laws take opposing positions on a controversial debate currently facing the Irish population: abortion.
Abortion is legal in Canada. In Ireland, it is only allowed if a woman’s life is in danger. Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights called on Mr. Trudeau, who has publicly supported a woman’s right to choose, to raise the abortion issue with Mr. Varadkar, who has described himself as “pro-life.”
“With the Irish Prime Minister coming to Canada, there is a really great opportunity to talk about women’s rights, reproductive rights and access to abortion,” said Meghan Doherty, global policy and advocacy officer at the pro-choice charity.
“The [Canadian] Prime Minister’s stance … could be quite persuasive with the Irish government to encourage them to be progressive, to respect women’s rights and to be seen as the modern country that it is.”
Mr. Varadkar has pledged to hold a referendum in spring 2018 on whether to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution, which forbids abortion even in cases where the fetus was conceived through incest or rape. Abortion carries a prison term of up to 14 years in Ireland, forcing many women to go to great lengths to access the service, including travelling to countries where it is legal.
The Irish Taoiseach will travel to Toronto on Monday, where he will attend a business breakfast hosted by Enterprise Ireland, an Irish government agency based in Toronto, and the Ireland-Canada Chambers of Commerce. He will also meet with a number of companies in Toronto, including small and medium-sized businesses supported by Enterprise Ireland.
CETA is expected to be a major topic of discussion during those meetings. Vivian Doyle-Kelly, president of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce in Montreal, said both governments understand the importance of the trade deal. “There are tremendous opportunities for increased business between Ireland and Canada. Both of the economies are dependent on international trade.”
Canada and Ireland share strong economic ties. Bilateral trade was valued at $2.4-billion in 2016, putting Ireland as Canada’s 10th-largest trading partner in the European Union. More than 4.5 million Canadians claimed Irish ancestry in 2011, making the Irish-Canadian community one of the largest ethnic groups in Canada.