A general view of Riga is seen June 5, 2013. (Ints Kalnins/REUTERS)

Trudeau to visit Latvia ahead of NATO summit


On his way to attend the NATO Summit in Belgium, Justin Trudeau will visit Latvia where Canada is leading one of the alliance’s four battle groups stationed the Baltics and Poland, the Prime Minister’s office announced Tuesday.

During his two-day visit on July 9 and 10 – the first by a Canadian prime minister to Latvia – Trudeau is planning meetings with Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis and President Raimonds Vējonis in the capital Riga.

Trudeau, accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and Gen. Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, will then visit the Canadian-led multinational NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup Latvia.

Commitment to NATO and Baltic security

Soldiers from India Company, enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia, move toward the wood line during Exercise SABER STRIKE 2018, near Skrunda, Latvia on June 11, 2018.
(Cpl. Jean-Roch Chabot/ eFP BG LATVIA Public Affairs)

Canada contributes approximately 450 troops to the battlegroup that also includes soldiers from Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

“I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Kučinskis and President Vējonis to reaffirm the strong bilateral relationship between Canada and Latvia, as well as Canada’s solid commitment to NATO and the security of the Baltic region,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“The NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup Latvia is an example of that, and I look forward to seeing in person the work Canadian Armed Forces members are doing with partner countries.”

Strong ties between Canada and Latvia

People wear traditional dress as they dance during Song and Dance Celebration procession throughout the streets of Riga, Latvia July 1, 2018. Song and Dance Celebration is a nationwide traditional culture event happening every five years and around 40 000 participants from 3421 amateur choirs, musical and folk dance ensembles participate in the 2018 festival. (Ints Kalnins/REUTERS)

Trudeau’s visit comes as Latvia marks the centenary of its first independent republic, which emerged from the ashes of the Russian Empire and following the Bolshevik revolution that created the Soviet Union.

Latvia along with its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 and regained independence only after the collapse of the Soviet Union 1991.

Canada, which is home to a 28,000-strong Latvian-Canadian community, was the first G7 country to recognize the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, and one of the first countries to ratify Latvia’s accession to NATO in 2004.

Latvia, in turn, became the first European Union country to ratify the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

From Riga Trudeau will head to Brussels to take part in the NATO leaders’ summit on July 11 and 12.

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