TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shaken up his cabinet less than two weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president.
Trudeau on Tuesday named Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s new foreign minister amid worries Trump will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Freeland was trade minister when she oversaw last year’s ratification of the Canada-European Union free trade agreement after initial concerns Europe wouldn’t approve it. The North American Free Trade Agreement is Canada’s largest and most important economic pact.
The former journalist and author of Ukrainian descent is barred from Russia, something she’s called an honor. Russia banned Freeland in 2014 as part of a series of retaliatory sanctions against Canadian government officials. She has been a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, someone Trump has praised.
Freeland replaces Stephane Dion, who has been dropped from the cabinet. Another experienced hand, John McCallum, who oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees as immigration minister, is retiring from Parliament to become ambassador to China as Trudeau embarks on a free trade agreement with the Asian country. “The Canada-China relationship will be well served by such a strong presence from our government,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Ahmed Hussen, a Somali refugee, was named Canada’s new immigration minister. Hussen came to Canada as a teenager from war-torn Somalia. A lawyer and community activist, Hussen became the first Somali-Canadian to be elected to Parliament in 2015.
The cabinet makeover is Trudeau’s first since becoming prime minister in late 2015. He made a splash in 2015 when he named a cabinet that was 50 percent women. He now has 15 women ministers and 14 men.
News of the shuffle leaked Monday just as Trudeau’s office confirmed that his two top aides, Chief of Staff Katie Telford and Principal Secretary Gerald Butts, have been meeting with some of Trump’s senior advisers, building bridges to the incoming administration.