Ahmed Hussen, the first Somali-Canadian elected to the House of Commons and MP for the Toronto riding of York South-Weston, replaced John McCallum as minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship in a cabinet shakeup on Tuesday.
McCallum, a former bank economist, leaves a 16-year political career as the MP for Markham-Thornhill to become Canada’s ambassador to China.
Hussen who came to Canada as a refugee at about age 16, is well known by many in Toronto’s Caribbean community as a strong advocate for his Regent Park community. A lawyer and president of the Canadian Somali Congress, he practiced criminal, immigration and refugee law. He also served on the board of the Global Enrichment Foundation, which helps women in East Africa go to university and colleges in the region, as well as on the board of the Toronto-based Journalists for Human Rights.
“I am extremely proud of our country’s history as a place of asylum, a place that opens its doors and hearts to new immigrants and refugees, and I’m especially proud today to be the minister in charge of that file,” Hussen told reporters outside the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“The story of Canada is the story of immigration, and I’m especially proud and humbled that the prime minister would task me with this important role.”
Hussen was first elected to the House of Commons in 2015 and has served on the Justice and Human Rights Committee as well as the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association.
He went to high school in Hamilton and after graduation, he moved in with one of his brothers, who lived in subsidized housing in Regent Park. To put himself through school at York University, Hussen worked at a gas station in Mississauga..
He is one of two Toronto-area MPs who have been promoted to high level positions in the Justin Trudeau government in Tuesday’s cabinet shakeup.
The other,Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale) , replaced Stéphane Dion as foreign minister. Freedland was minister of international trade.
Dion is reported to have been offered a diplomatic post but is considering his options.