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Canada's Sixth G7 Summit: Charlevoix

Katrina Bland, G7 Research Group
January 29, 2018

Every year one G7 member counts down on New Year's Eve with the added excitement and weight of announcing its G7 presidency. This year, it was Canada that eagerly awaited the arrival of January 1 to make the announcement that it had assumed the G7 presidency, to be held on June 8-9, 2018, in Charlevoix, Quebec. Although it will be Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's first time hosting a major political event, his family legacy and organizing team will help with the production of a successful summit. Indeed, Prime Minister Trudeau will remember when his father hosted Canada's first G7 summit in 1981. Trudeau's personal representative for the summit is Peter Boehm, the longest serving G7 sherpa across all members, having coordinated both G7 and G20 summits under four different prime ministers, and thus having witnessed and adapted accordingly to changes in the substance and style of the changing leaders.

Charlevoix will be the sixth G7 summit that Canada will host. The G7 presidency is assumed on a rotating basis, excluding the European Union, in the order of France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada. The host assumes the responsibility of organizing the summit, as well as the ministerial level and working group meetings. This includes shaping the summit's agenda and priorities, influenced by the number and substance of the pre-summit meetings. While the previous G7 host Italy held 13 ministerial meetings, including the first ever on gender equality, Canada will hold far fewer (which ones and when they will be held is yet to be announced).

On location, hosts tend to choose a summit site that will boost its national and international image, and one that is symbolic of a global issue they want to emphasize. In 2017 Italy chose Taormina, a city steeped in history and charm, but selected in part to highlight the refugee crisis and the terrorism behind it. Here, against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea that so many refugees have struggled to cross, the leaders' discussions and public perceptions took on new meaning. Likewise, Canada has chosen Charlevoix, a historic and picturesque tourist destination surrounded by Canadian wilderness, lending to discussions of environmental protection. Charlevoix sits on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, a conduit for marine traffic — both whales and traders — for centuries, thus emphasizing Canada's distinctive national values of environmentalism and openness.

Past Canadian G7 summits have been hosted in both urban and private, retreat-style settings: Ottawa and Montebello in 1981, Toronto in 1988, Halifax in 1995, Kananaskis in 2002 and Muskoka in 2010. This format, out of the public eye, suits the G7 as a forum for intimate and frank discussions particularly well. With the likemindedness of the club strained due to anti-globalist and protectionist sentiments, Charlevoix's peaceful and private atmosphere will lend to the bridge-building diplomacy Canada is famous for.

On the agenda, the host has considerable control. Since its 1975 inception, the G7 has addressed many issues. While many of these are carried over and built upon from summit to summit, each host has the discretion to prioritize the issues it views as most pertinent. In 2017, Taormina's overarching theme was Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust, under which there were several priorities, with addressing the refugee crisis high among them. Past Canadian summits have focused on trade, finance, foreign aid, and maternal, child and newborn health. For Charlevoix, Canada's theme is to generate togetherness and hope for a stable future, with five sub-themes of investing in growth that works for everyone; preparing for jobs of the future; advancing gender equality and women's empowerment; working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and building a more peaceful and security world. A gender lens will be applied throughout each theme.

The world will thus be watching to see how Canada's sixth G7 summit preparatory process will unfold, what decisions the G7 will make in the leaders' collective communiqué or chair's summary, and how well the G7 will comply with those commitments once the leaders go back home.

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Katrina BlandKatrina Bland holds an Honours BA in international relations and political science from the University of Toronto. She is chair of summit studies for the 2018 Charlevois Summit, having served as lead analyst. She is also a compliance analyst for the G20 Research Group. Her research focuses on G7 and G20 gender and health issues, in addition to her other research interests in cross-cultural communication and international law.

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