'This is what the world is looking for': Trudeau's highly diverse cabinet
Published Thursday, November 5, 2015 11:15AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 5, 2015 11:31AM EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented a cabinet "that looks like Canada" on Wednesday, which included an equal number of male and female ministers, the inclusion of two ministers with disabilities, two aboriginal ministers, and Canada's first Muslim minister.
"This is the future," Armine Yalnizyan, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday. "What we're seeing in the bench that was elected is deep and diverse, and this is what the world is looking for. How do you broker all these differences?"
15 female cabinet ministers
Well before becoming Canada's newest Prime Minister, Trudeau promised gender parity in his cabinet. On Wednesday, 15 female MPs were appointed to the 31-member Liberal cabinet.
"This is not about tokenism," Yalnizyan said. "These portfolios are so vast and so important to the economy."
Trudeau’s appointments of women to high-profile portfolios include:
- Dr. Jane Philpott -- Health: Philpott is a family physician, associate professor at the University of Toronto, and former chief of the department of family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital.
- Jody Wilson-Raybould -- Justice and Attorney General: Wilson-Raybould is a former Crown prosecutor and regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
- Chrystia Freeland -- International Trade: Freeland is a Rhodes scholar and a well-known author and journalist. Before being elected in 2013, Freeland was a senior editor at Thomson Reuters in New York City.
- Catherine McKenna -- Environment and Climate Change: McKenna, a human rights lawyer, was a former legal adviser for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor and founded Canadian Lawyers Abroad.
- Maryam Monsef -- Democratic Institutions: Monsef, a community organizer, was born in Afghanistan. She fled the Taliban and came to Canada as a refugee with her widowed mother and sisters in 1996.
Trudeau has vowed to mend Canada's relationship with aboriginal peoples, and a first step may have been the appointment of Wilson-Raybould and Inuk MP Hunter Tootoo, a former speaker of Nunavut's legislative assembly who's been named Minster of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coastguard.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the appointments "a huge first step."
Bellegarde also said the inclusion of First Nations drummers, Inuit throat singers and Metis jiggers in Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony is a "powerful start towards change and reconciliation.”
"That's really what's required in this country," he said.
In total, a record 10 indigenous MPs were elected to the House of Commons on Oct. 19 – eight Liberals, and two NDP.
Cabinet ministers with disabilities
Calgary-Centre MP Kent Hehr was sworn in as Canada's Minister of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday. The lawyer and former Alberta MLA was shot as a bystander in a drive-by shooting when he was 22-years-old, leaving him paralyzed.
Veterans advocate Michael Blais said Hehr's experience as a person with a disability will spur a new sense of "empathy and compassion" towards veterans.
"We have a disabled minister now, one who has been shot, one who has dealt with the consequences of violence," Blais said.
British Columbia MP Carla Qualtrough, a former Paralympian, was named Minister of Sport and Persons with a Disability in the Liberal cabinet.
Qualtrough, who was born with a visual impairment, first gained prominence as a three-time Paralympic Games medallist in swimming.
Mix of young, veteran ministers
The party’s rise from 36 seats in the House of Commons when Parliament was dissolved in August, to 184 seats, means plenty of fresh faces in the Liberal caucus.
Bellegarde said the Liberal cabinet combines experience with “energy.”
“It's a good mix,” he said. “And I think you're going to get better decisions when you have that experience, combined with the energy of the youth and the new, innovative ideas.”
Veteran MPs in the Liberal cabinet include:
- Saskatchewan MP Ralph Goodale, 66: First elected to parliament in 1974; appointed Minister of Public Safety and Emergency.
- Ontario MP Carolyn Bennett, 64: First elected to parliament in 1997; appointed Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
- Ontario MP John McCallum, 65: First elected to parliament in 2000; appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Rookie MPs in the Liberal cabinet include:
- Quebec MP Melanie Joly, 36, appointed Minister of Canadian Heritage
- Ontario MP Maryam Monsef, 30, appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions
- Ontario MP Bardish Chagger, 35, appointed Minister of Small Business and Tourism