Audrey Gordon becomes Manitoba’s first Black cabinet minister

Heather Stefason (left) and Audrey Gordon

WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has expanded his cabinet and split the health minister’s job in two as his government  battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heather Stefanson and Audrey Gordon now share the health portfolio, which was previously handled by Cameron Friesen, who now leads the justice department, the premier announced at a swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday.

Pallister called it a “hopeful day” after unveiling the cabinet shuffle, which featured the addition of three new faces, including Manitoba’s first Black cabinet minister.

“I know the stories of these capable people.… The triumphs in their lives have not come without significant challenges,” he said.

“It’s a Manitoba shuffle, in a way, in the sense that we are a diverse province,” Pallister said.

Stefanson, the former families minister, will take a leading role in the COVID-19 pandemic response as the minister of health and seniors.

Gordon leads the new Department of Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery.

Pallister said Gordon’s appointment as Manitoba’s first Black cabinet minister marks a historic day, but she “wasn’t appointed because of race. She was appointed because of merit,” after working in the civil service for 20 years.

Gordon, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, was one of the first three Black Canadian MLAs elected in the 2019 Manitoba general election.