Chrystia Freeland takes over Foreign Affairs as Trudeau shuffles cabinet

Chrystia Freeland has been appointed Canada’s new minister of foreign affairs in a shakeup of the federal Liberal cabinet.

But the future of the man she is succeeding is unclear.

Freeland, who leaves the international trade portfolio, replaces veteran MP Stéphane Dion. Sources told CBC News Dion was offered the position as Canada’s ambassador to the European Union and Germany, but a statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released Tuesday did not mention a future role for the long-serving minister.

“I, and all Canadians, owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his service,” it read. “I know I will be able to continue to count on his wisdom and his tireless service, and look forward to the next chapter of Mr. Dion’s contributions to our country.”

In contrast, the statement said outgoing immigration minister John McCallum will be named Canada’s ambassador to China.

The swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers is taking place at Rideau Hall and is carrying it live.

Other changes announced today:

  • François-Philippe Champagne becomes minister of international trade.
  • Patty Hajdu moves from status of women to labour.
  • Maryam Monsef transfers from democratic institutions to status of women.
  • Karina Gould is named minister of democratic institutions.
  • Ahmed Hussen becomes minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

Hussen, Canada’s first MP of Somali descent, is a lawyer and community activist in the Toronto riding of York South-Weston.

Ahmed Hussen

Ahmed Hussen, the Liberal MP for the Toronto-area riding of York South-Weston, will be Canada’s new minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. (CBC Marketplace)

Gould, 29, a former trade and development worker who represents the riding of Burlington, Ont., was promoted from her previous role as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development. 

Champagne, a first-term MP for the Quebec riding of Saint-Maurice–Champlain, is a former businessman and lawyer. He was considered a strong performer as parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

McCallum, Dion assume ambassador roles

McCallum, 65, served as defence minister under former prime minister Jean Chrétien and presided over the veteran affairs file in former prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinet. He led Canada’s efforts to bring 39,500 Syrian refugees to Canada.

Dion, 61, was environment minister under Martin and then succeeded him as party leader, a position he held until shortly after the party lost 18 seats in a 2008 federal election defeat. 

Question Period 20160216

Liberal MP Karina Gould will head up the democratic institutions file. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Monsef, the Ontario MP for Peterborough-Kawartha, has taken criticism for her handling of the electoral reform file, and was forced to apologize last month for accusing MPs on the special committee studying the issue of shirking their duties.

MaryAnn Mihychuk was also shuffled out of her office as minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Freeland banned from Russia

Freeland, a former journalist, was praised for stickhandling the Canada-European Union free trade agreement, where she gained experience that could be valuable in dealing with the new administration of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

Freeland was among 13 Canadians slapped with retaliatory sanctions by Russian President Vladamir Putin in 2014. The punitive measures were imposed to counter Canadian sanctions against Russian officials over aggression in Ukraine and Crimea.

Today, the Russian Embassy in Ottawa confirmed to CBC that Freeland is still subject of those sanctions, which ban her from travelling to the country.

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Liberal François-Philippe Champagne stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 12. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Trudeau’s cabinet was sworn in just over 14 months ago with an even number of men and women, but has already seen a few changes.

Last May, former fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo was dropped from cabinet for personal reasons and replaced by former government House leader Dominic LeBlanc. In a midsummer move, Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger was handed LeBlanc’s House leader duties.

Shuffle precedes Trump inauguration

The inauguration next week of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has put new focus on the government’s handling of the Canada-U.S. relationship. A shuffle allows Trudeau to move perceived strong ministers into roles that are critical to that relationship while addressing some of the weaker performers.

MaryAnn Mihychuk Maryam Monsef Stéphane Dion

MaryAnn Mihychuk, Maryam Monsef and Stéphane Dion are all being moved out of their current portfolios in Tuesday’s cabinet shuffle, sources tell CBC News. (Canadian Press)