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How Will Canada's Justin Trudeau Respond
to the Paris Attacks at Antalya?

John Kirton, Co-director, G20 Research Group
November 14, 2015

The terrorist attacks in Paris on the evening of November 13, 2015, will have a major impact on the G20's Antalya Summit. They will have a similarly significant impact on the performance of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau as he makes his debut on the world stage. As he prepares to come to Turkey, Trudeau's first concern will properly be on whether any Canadians were among the innocents killed or injured or, more ominously, connected in any way to those who perpetrated these evil acts. His simultaneous concern will be with the families of all the victims who have so tragically lost their lives or been wounded. His next concern will be whether or not Canada — the only other francophone member of the G20, and a multicultural mecca — is similarly vulnerable to the kinds of attacks that have just killed so many in France. However, his attention will soon turn to what G20 leaders at Antalya can do to ensure that this cadence of terrorism does not spread and is soon contained.

At first glance, the Paris attacks will transform the prevailing prospects for sunny days at the Antalya Summit into very dark and gloomy ones, thus calling on Trudeau to show a new dimension of his personality than the one Canadians have enjoyed so much of late. It will also raise questions about whether his initial decision was well taken to end Canada's air combat mission against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, especially if ISIS's terrorists are shown to be the perpetrators of the Paris attacks. It will further cause some commentary and second thoughts about whether Trudeau's rather nuanced approach to his predecessor Stephen Harper's Bill C-51 on counterterrorism struck the right balance with protection for civil liberties in the new context that the Paris attacks have brought.

Trudeau is likely to pass this sudden, shocking, severe new test. He is no innocent abroad or at home in the face of the terrorist threat. The long election campaign he has just fought and won has made him intimately familiar with the intricacies of both Bill C-51 and the broader issue of how to deal with ISIS terrorism at its source, including the balance between a combat air mission and a muscular response in other ways. Moreover, as a member of Canada's parliament he was intimately involved in the deadly terrorist attack on Canada's parliament just over a year ago.

While that was an act of self-radicalized home-grown terrorism by a single individual with mental health issues, it and a similar incident a few days earlier in Trudeau's home province of Quebec constituted a major shock to Canada, which had never previously suffered deaths from terrorists of global reach on or over its own soil.

Canadians with long memories may remember that Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre Trudeau, led the older G7 into taking up its counterterrorism work by joining Helmut Schmidt of Germany, at the Bonn Summit the latter hosted in 1978, to deal with the deadly skyjacking then ravaging Europe. At their initiative, the G7 put in place a highly ambitious and effective counterterrorist regime. Paul Martin similarly took the initiative, as Canada's finance minister and chair of the G20 forum of finance ministers and central bank governors, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington next door. As Canada's new Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau has both inspiration and wise counsel from his predecessors very close at hand.

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