TORONTO -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has officially named Kirsten Hillman as Canada's next ambassador to the United States -- the first woman in Canadian history to hold the position at the Washington mission.

Hillman had been serving as Canada's acting ambassador since David MacNaughton stepped down from the position in August 2019.

The escalating coronavirus pandemic motivated the Liberal minority to make her appointment permanent because she has been a notable player in collaborating the Canada-U.S. response.

Top Canadian officials say Hillman has been "central" in uniting efforts between Canada and the U.S. to fight the COVID-19 outbreak, including the recent closure of the border to all non-essential travel.

Canada has so far seen more success than the U.S. at slowing the outbreak with many officials citing the border closure as a key move in preventing an even higher escalation of coronavirus cases north of the states.

"When we worked together to negotiate the new NAFTA, I saw Ms. Hillman's ability to stand up for Canadians and fight for their interests," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

"She combines exceptional knowledge and skills, and is a gifted diplomat. Ms. Hillman will remain a trusted advisor, friend, and counsellor in Washington and is our point person with Congress and the U.S. administration."

Hillman has been a key figure during moments of major political tension between the two countries, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sought to navigate his way around the aggressive trade policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. She was instrumental in negotiations for the new NAFTA deal.

Hillman has become popular among many Canadians living in the American capital, from emceeing Canada Day celebrations to helping organize viewing parties for the Toronto Raptors during the NBA championship playoffs in 2019.