Canada’s New Cabinet Includes More Women, A Muslim, A Paraplegic And An Astronaut

November 9, 2015

Because it’s time for a cabinet “that actually looks like Canada.”

For the first time in the country’s history, Canada will have gender parity in its cabinet. Justin Trudeau, recently sworn in as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, has a appointed a young, ethnically diverse cabinet, which, for the first time, has equal numbers of men and women. His appointment marks the end of nearly a decade of conservative rule.

The 15 male and 15 female ministers include rookie politician and corporate executive Bill Morneau as finance minister, and former Liberal leader Stephane Dion as foreign minister. Harjit Sajjan, a Sikh immigrant from India, military veteran and former police officer, has been appointed defence minister, and Afghan refugee Maraym Monsef is minister of democratic institutions. She is also the first Muslim Canadian in cabinet.

In addition, two aboriginal Canadians MPs have also been sworn in, including the new indigenous affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett who has pledged to lead a national inquiry into hundreds of cases of indigenous women who are missing and murdered.

Kent Hehr, an advocate for the disabled who became a paraplegic in his early 20s after falling victim to a drive-by shooting, is now veterans’ affairs minister.

Possibly the most interesting CV is that of 66 year-old former astronaut Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space. Before entering politics, Garneau was president of the Canadian space agency, and is now transport minister. He rocketed into outer space three times; missions in 1984, 1996 and 2000.

Also contributing to the ethnic diversity of the new cabinet is infrastructure minister Amarjeet Sohi, who arrived in Canada in 1981. After Sohi returned to India in the late 1980s to study acting, he was arrested on terrorism charges, spending nearly two years in solitary confinement in prison where he was allegedly tortured.

By contrast to the cabinet of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, the new team is expected to be given more independence. Immediately after his election, Trudeau assured the country he was aiming for “a government by cabinet”. Also on the new government’s agenda are ending Canada’s airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, and amending the anti-terror bill passed by the Harper government.

Other election promises include making marijuana legally available, and a pledge to run budget deficits to improve infrastructure. Trudeau also intends to increase taxes for the richest Canadians, and cut taxes for the middle class. When questioned about his radical changes to the country’s cabinet setting, the new PM stated his decisions were because “it’s 2015”, and he wanted a cabinet “that looks like Canada”.

Regardless of the proven efficacy of the Conservative party while they were in power, a broader spread of perspectives, personal contexts, and life experiences are sure to provide a multitude of new ideas. With the new ministers, issues that may have been overlooked or not given priority status will now come to the forefront, whereas the contingent of older, more experienced ministers will maintain the Liberal party’s tradition and core message.

Comment: Do you think new Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s radical changes will be welcomed by Canada? 


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