In a historic swearing-in ceremony that was full of firsts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet of 15 women and 15 men took their oaths before Governor General David Johnston at Rideau Hall on Parliament Hill on Nov. 4.
Trudeau is the first son of a prime minister to take office in Canada and the second-youngest in the country’s history.
From a former truck driver to a Nobel-Prize winner, Trudeau made good his promise of a diverse and inclusive government, appointing four Sikhs and a paraplegic, among others.
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Although this is not the first time Sikhs were appointed to cabinet, this is the largest number and one of them is a woman.
Among the diverse crowd are four ministers of Sikh origin — a conspicuously high number when you consider that India, where most Sikhs live, only counts two Sikhs in current senior cabinet-level positions.
Harjit Sajjan, 42, a former police officer and veteran of three military deployments to Afghanistan, is now Canada’s defense minister.
The others are Amarjeet Sohi, sworn in as Canada’s minister of infrastructure; Navdeep Bains, 38, a business school professor who now has the portfolio for innovation, science and economic development; and Bardish Chagger, 35, a daughter of Sikh immigrants who was sworn in as minister of small business and tourism.
All four are first-time parliamentarians.
In the outgoing government, Tim Uppal, a Sikh, held the rank of the Minister of State. Herb Dhaliwal was the first Sikh to become a full Cabinet Minister in Canada in 1997, followed by Ujjal Dosanjh in 2004. Dhaliwal held the Revenue portfolio while Dosanjh held Health.
Two aboriginals made it to cabinet – B.C.s’ Jody Wilson-Raybould was appointed justice minister, while Nunavut’s Hunter Tootoo becomes the minister of fisheries and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Maryam Monsef, from Peterborough-Kawartha, has already made history as Canada’s first Afghan-born MP. Monsef and her family fled the Taliban in Afghanistan, arriving in Canada as refugees in 1996. Since then, she has worked in many community groups and co-founded the Red Pashmina Campaign, which raises money for women and girls in Afghanistan.
Although the Liberals elected three Chinese-Canadians, all from Ontario,none made it to cabinet.
Arnold Chan, a lawyer , was reelected in the Scarborough-Agincourt riding.
Geng Tan is the first Mandarin-speaking MP from Toronto’s Don Valley North riding. A scientist who worked for Ontario Power Corporation, Tan has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry from the Univ. of Toronto.
Shaun Chen of Scarbourgh-North holds a BS degree in Computer Science and an MA in Sociology in Education from the Univ. of Toronto.
In contrast to the 2011 election, where 9.4 per cent of all MPs were visible minorities, 2015 representation is aligned to the number of visible minority citizens
Of the 338 MPs, 14 per cent were visible minorities, which is close to parity with the number of visible minority citizens in Canada (15 per cent).
The percentage of visible minorities elected was identical to the percentage of visible minority candidates, which also had increased to 14 per cent from 10 per cent in the elections of 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
The Liberal Party had the most visible minority candidates at 16 per cent while the Conservative Party and the NDP had slight under-representation at 13 per cent.
The Conservatives reelected two Chinese-Canadians – Alice Wong of Richmond-Centre and Michael Chong of Wellington-Halton Hill.
The NDP elected only one – former B.C. MLA Jenny Kwan of Vancouver East.