Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met his British counterpart and other world leaders in London on Sunday, as talk of the economy and the war in Ukraine took their place alongside the sombre preparations for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
Trudeau spent about 40 minutes at 10 Downing Street early in the afternoon for a meeting with Liz Truss.
Leaders from across the world have made the trip to London to mourn Britain’s longest-serving monarch. While the focus of the trip is Monday’s funeral, Trudeau also took the time to meet with fellow leaders including Truss and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
At an afternoon news conference, he said the ongoing war in Ukraine was top of the agenda for his meeting with Truss after he first offered condolences over the loss of the queen.
“Obviously the UK and Canada have been two of the strongest countries in standing up in support of Ukraine and pushing back against Russia’s illegal actions, which increasingly clearly include war crimes,” he said.
Trudeau referred to a mass burial site that has been reported near a recaptured northeastern city previously occupied by Russian forces, as well as earlier reports of killings and torture in Bucha outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. He called for Russia and its president to be held accountable.
“Vladimir Putin, his supporters and the Russian military need to be held to account for the atrocities they have and are continuing to commit in Ukraine,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said he and his British counterpart also discussed inflation and the negotiations for a Canada-UK trade deal, which he said were “advancing well.”
Trudeau’s meeting with Albanese took place at a London hotel.
He said the two leaders were meeting at a time of “reflection and condolences,” but also had important matters to discuss.
He suggested the meeting would include discussions on climate change, geopolitical issues and economic growth.
Trudeau was also set to meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and participate in an evening reception at Buckingham Palace later on Sunday before attending the queen’s state funeral Monday morning.
Trudeau praised the late monarch for her “70 years of extraordinary service to Canada” and her ability to connect with the public.
“Every time I got to meet with Her Majesty, her generosity and her gracefulness made that moment the most important ever,” he said. “She had a way of reaching out and connecting with whoever she met with, and connecting with crowds and people who only saw her on television.”
Trudeau brushed off a question about whether the death of the well-loved sovereign was the right time to reconsider Canada’s ties to the monarchy — a proposition echoed by former environment minister Catherine McKenna in a tweet.
He said that while “there are always moments for reflection,” Canadians expected him to focus on other issues such as the economy, the cost of living, housing and climate change.
Jean Chrétien, one of the four former prime ministers travelling with Trudeau as part of the Canadian delegation to London, described the queen as someone with “star power” who commanded respect.
He drew laughs when he told a story about singing the national anthem for the queen in the Northwest Territories in 1970, only to realize he didn’t know the words in English.
“I was sweating,” he said. “My wife had never been so shy in her lifetime.”
He said he met then-Prince Charles the next summer, and was told his singing of ‘O Canada’ had become “part of royal folklore.”
Mark Tewksbury, a former gold-medal-winning swimmer who is part of the Canadian delegation, said being able to participate in the ceremony meant something “almost beyond words.”
“Even to be walking through Westminster Abbey, walking through some of the graves of some of the scientists and Darwin, wow, this is hallowed ground,” said Tewksbury, who participated in a rehearsal for the funeral.
“There’s a reverence and a beautiful solemnness to what’s going to happen.”
He said he and actress Sandra Oh were invested into the Order of Canada at a ceremony at Canada House in London on Saturday – which was a prerequisite to wear the official attire at the funeral, he said. Previous ceremonies were delayed because of COVID-19, he added.
By Morgan Lowrie