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Syrian refugee policy highlights Canada’s bid for UN Council seat

"Our experience with Syrian refugees, our experience living together in diversity with lasting peace and prosperity is an example for the world"
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in mid-March Canada would seek rotating seat on council during 2021-2022 term. (AFP)

Canada's UN ambassador said on Sunday that the country's experience welcoming Syrian refugees helps qualify it for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, part of its push for a more active role on the world stage.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in mid-March that Canada would seek a rotating seat on the council during the 2021-2022 term.

"Our experience with Syrian refugees, our experience living together in diversity with lasting peace and prosperity is an example for the world," the country's UN ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard told public broadcaster CBC on Sunday.

Canada has welcomed more than 26,000 Syrian refugees after a campaign pledge by Trudeau, and has plans to take in as many as 31,000 more by the end of the year.

The Security Council has a total of 15 members, five of them permanent - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - and another 10 that serve rotating two-year terms.

"In recent months, Canada's leadership has stood out with agreements on climate change, Syrian refugee issues, drugs recently and indigenous people last week," Blanchard said in French. "These are all examples of Canada's multilateral re-engagement."

The CBC also reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Canada has plans to bolster its peacekeeping role, though he said it is too early to give details on how that could take shape. The nature of peacekeeping has changed, with a trend to outside forces helping train local troops.

"We are in discussions with the UN and our allies and partners to see what would be the optimal way for Canada to re-engage itself in peacekeeping missions," he said.

Ottawa aims to provide "expertise for rapid strategic deployment in conflict zones," and even command forces training, Blanchard said.

The country currently has 84 police, nine military experts and 20 soldiers deployed on peacekeeping missions, but those numbers may expand as Ottawa plans to take over command of the UN stabilisation mission in Haiti and replace Brazilian forces before the end of the year.

A UN member since 1945, Canada has already served on the council several times. 

But it suffered a blow when it was passed over by the UN General Assembly during a 2010 bid to join the council.

The assembly chose Portugal and Germany instead - both from the same Western region to which Canada belongs.

Candidates for Security Council seats typically undertake vigorous lobbying campaigns, courting the UN's 193 members.