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Biden visits Canada to discuss immigration, defense spending, Ukraine

Biden spoke to Canada’s Parliament on Friday

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets President Joe Biden as he arrives at Parliament Hill, Friday, March 24, 2023, in Ottawa, Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets President Joe Biden as he arrives at Parliament Hill, Friday, March 24, 2023, in Ottawa, Canada.

Associated Press

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day visit to the U.S.’s northern neighbor.

The two attended a gathering hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Trudeau at their private residence on Thursday evening, said John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, in a press briefing.

But Biden and Trudeau had gotten to work before Biden’s arrival, striking a deal to block asylum seekers from crossing the U.S.’s northern border without proper authorization, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

This policy will penalize migrants entering either country at unofficial crossing points like Roxham Road that stretches between Quebec and New York, per Politico.

Roughly 40,000 migrants have entered Canada through unofficial crossing points, which Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, called an “irregular migration” trend.

Without confirming the pending announcement, Jean-Pierre said that the Biden administration will prioritize legal immigration pathways while continuing “to enforce our immigration laws and remove those without a legal basis to remain in the U.S.”

Biden and Trudeau discussed the agreement and other matters important to both nations in a bilateral meeting on Friday, a first since 2009. The president then addressed Canada’s Parliament — falling in line with the tradition set by the previous 13 presidents who visited the country during the 150 years of partnership — and end the visit with a joint press conference.

In his address, Biden said the the “destinies” of the two countries are “ intertwined and they’re inseparable,” according to the CBC.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart. There is no more reliable ally, no more steady friend. And today I say to you, you will always be able to count on the United States of America,” he said.

Now into the third year of his presidency, this visit is part of Biden “taking stock of what we’ve done, where we are, and what we need to prioritize for the future,” Kirby said.

This meeting is important for Canada as well, Laura Dawson, a former senior economic adviser at the U.S. embassy in Canada, told NPR, saying, “It’s important to have a personal, in-person visit by the president just to reinforce to Canadians that this relationship is still very important to the United States.”

Trudeau and Biden appear to be good friends, which is a step up from the difficult relationship between Trudeau and Trump.

Kirby listed out agenda items for discussion, besides immigration, that included tackling climate change, stability in Haiti, support for Ukraine and strengthening defense through NORAD while protecting ideals of democracy.

Here’s where the two countries stand on these issues.

Climate change

Canada and the U.S. have joined 120 countries in committing to net-zero emissions by 2050. While emissions in the U.S. have fallen, thanks to lower coal consumption and increased investment in renewable energy, Canada observed an increase in greenhouse gases in recent years, as it was slow to fund green energy sectors in comparison to countries like Germany and the United Kingdom, according to CBC News.


The country faces widespread violence and political instability as armed gangs take over the capital city of Port-au-Prince. This led the United Nations to urge the international community to deploy “a time-bound specialized support force,” an idea that the White House perceives as essential for stability, as NPR reported. Meanwhile, Trudeau, during the Organization of American States meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, said that Haiti’s elites are to be blamed for the crisis while saying that though Canada will continue to strengthen Haiti’s police force, it does not intend to use military force.


As Reuters noted, the U.S. isn’t happy about Canada’s failure to reach defense spending of 2% of GDP, as required for NATO members. Trudeau announced new defense spending during meetings with Biden on Friday, and Biden spoke about Ukraine during his address to Parliament.


This U.S.-Canada organization is key to aerospace and maritime warnings as well as aerospace control for North America, according to the Department of Defense. The NORAD system, which oversees aircrafts, missiles and space vehicles, was put to use when the Chinese surveillance balloon invaded the airspace of both countries. The incident left North American officials with an urgency to secure airspace. Now, Canada has agreed to spend billions in military upgrades faster than the previous timeline, as The Associated Press reported. The Trudeau administration was set to spend $3.8 billion over six years but this number may go higher.