Toronto MP Ahmed Hussen 1st Somali-Canadian appointed to federal cabinet

Toronto MP Ahmed Hussen 1st Somali-Canadian appointed to federal cabinet

Somali-Canadians celebrate Hussen’s appointment as immigration minister

By Michelle Cheung, CBC News Posted: Jan 11, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 12, 2017 4:12 PM ET

Canada's first Somali-born MP is the new Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister. Ahmed Hussen takes over from another Toronto-area MP John McCallum.

Canada’s first Somali-born MP is the new Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister. Ahmed Hussen takes over from another Toronto-area MP John McCallum. (CBC News)

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He was the first Somali-Canadian to become a federal Member of Parliament, and now many in the GTA’s Somali community are celebrating as York South-Weston Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen has broken another barrier: he’s been appointed as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

“It’s a really great thing to happen to our community,” said Mahad Yusef, the executive director of the Somali Immigrant Aid Association. “It’s something that we really needed, not just for the Somali community, but for the whole black community.”

Hussen’s appointment was announced Tuesday in Ottawa by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of an extensive cabinet shuffle. He replaces John McCallum, the veteran MP representing Markham-Thornhill, who will become Canada’s ambassador to China.

Hussen, 41, knows the challenging path to citizenship first-hand; he came to Canada as a 16-year-old refugee from Somalia in 1993.

“Each of us coming into public life are informed … by the different experiences they bring to the table.” Hussen told reporters in Ottawa Tuesday.

“I’m no different in that sense. I’ll bring my experience as an immigrant to Canada but also as an immigration lawyer — someone who worked many, many years before running for office as a community activist, a community organizer and a community advocate.”

When asked Tuesday if the idea of immigration and taking in refugees is something that needs defending these days in light of the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and the Brexit vote in Britain, Hussen said Canada is showing the way when it comes to welcoming immigrants.

“I’m extremely proud of the fact that Canadians have always been welcoming to others, people who’ve sought asylum and … we’ve been the better for it. The story of Canada is the story of immigration.”

Mahad Yusef agrees that Hussen’s roots in the city’s Somali community will be useful in his ministerial duties.

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